Aboriginal land claim agreement clears way for Stuarts Point sewage treatment plant

Representatives from Kempsey Shire Council, Kempsey Local Aboriginal Land Council and the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council at the signing of a land agreement that will clear the way for a sewage treatment plant in Stuarts Point. Photo: supplied by Kempsey Shire Council.


KEMPSEY Shire Council has struck an agreement with Kempsey Local Aboriginal Land Council that will clear the way for a sewage treatment plant to service Stuarts Point, Fishermans Reach and Grassy Head, a major step forwards for a project that has been slow to progress since the state government allocated $6.63 million to it in 2016.

The resolution of the land claim on Friday, May 21, will enable the purchase of land located to the north of the waste transfer station on Fishermans Reach Road that’s “crucial to the delivery of the sewer project in the area”, Kempsey Shire Council said in a statement released the same day.

“Following comprehensive negotiations … Kempsey Local Aboriginal Land Council have agreed to withdraw their undetermined land claims to allow for the construction of a sewerage treatment plant for the community of Stuarts Point,” according to the statement, which notes that the “historic” deed of agreement is a first for the Macleay Valley.

The community’s calls for the sewer system, which has been a local topic of discussion for decades, took on a new sense of urgency after the March floods resulted in at least 45 homes being evacuated when rising groundwater caused the septic tanks currently in place to spill into properties and streets.

Kempsey Shire Council Director of Operations and Planning Robert Fish said the sewerage project is now in the design and investigation phase, with consultants engaged or in the process of being engaged.

“Once this phase is completed an expression of interest is planned to be called in 2022 for tenders for a detailed design and construction contract,” he said.

“Construction is anticipated in the latter part of 2022.”

As well as meaning the many local property owners with outdated septic systems will avoid the cost of bringing them up to compliant standards, the project is expected to deliver benefits to the broader community and reduce water quality issues associated with wet weather overflows.

“It is anticipated that the sewerage scheme will improve property values in the area, based on increased land value, development potential and improved social benefits,” Fish said.

“The sewerage scheme will help the area cater for visitor populations in caravan parks and allow for growth of the village at Stuarts Point.

“The scheme is also anticipated to significantly improve capacity and operations for oyster growers in the area.”

Kempsey Local Aboriginal Land Council chief executive officer Greg Douglas said members of the organisation had recognised the need for the project.

“I would really like to acknowledge our members and community members because they were important to the process and when they saw what it meant, at the end of the day they were very supportive,” he said.

Kempsey Shire Council Mayor Liz Campbell praised the consultations between the parties involved to reach an agreement.

“For us to have this land, to be able to provide the sewer that we need for Stuarts Point and to also provide the benefit for our Local Aboriginal Land Council will be a benefit to all of our people,” she said.

Kempsey Shire Council estimates that the connection of properties to the sewerage system will commence in mid to late 2023 and has stated that there will be dunal discharge of the treated effluent, in line with recommendations from the NSW Environmental Protection Authority and NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.

“Dunal discharge is the endorsed option of treated effluent discharge, like that in place at South West Rocks,” Fish said.

“The planned location is on the east side of the Macleay Arm at the northern end of the Stuarts Point village.”


By Brooke LEWIS

Leave a Reply