Council faces legal costs for water cut-off

BALLINA Shire Council has sought legal advice following complaints from Uralba and Pimlico residents about plans to disconnect them from the town water supply.

The pipeline servicing the affected properties is almost 80-years-old, and renewing its entire length would cost $1 million.

At its February meeting, the council resolved to replace only the section servicing properties to the east of Emigrant Creek.

But the rest of the water main, to the west, would be decommissioned.

It would leave nine properties with no connection to town water, and residents have threatened legal action, saying it will damage property values and agricultural pursuits in the area.

The council has since sought further legal advice and a report will be presented to the monthly ordinary meeting on Thursday.

Expert counsel Mark Seymour has advised that the council can request "declaratory relief from the court as to whether council can lawfully disconnect the water".

But going through the courts would be costly and time consuming, and council staff have dismissed this as a reasonable option.

One option would be to disconnect the pipeline and compensate landowners with rainwater tanks.

This would cost the council about $180,000.

But that does not address issues such as loss of land value, and would not provide adequate water for primary producers.

Also, the council may not reach agreements with all landholders.

A second option would be to replace the entire pipeline west of Emigrant Creek and charge landholders an additional annual fee for construction.

Several landowners have already indicated support for this option.

The recommendation from council staff is to undertake further consultation with the affected landholders.

Councillors will vote on the issue at Thursday's meeting.