Bass Labor candidate Ross Hart has left open the possibility that the federal opposition will commit funds this election campaign to assist in cleaning up the Tamar River.
The party has not yet pledged any money towards the troubled waterway while the government has dedicated $2.5 million towards a river recovery plan, including money for silt-raking and riverbank stabilisation.
Mr Hart at a debate with Liberal incumbent Andrew Nikolic on Thursday night hinted that a funding announcement could be made in the next fortnight, saying “we are sometime from election day”.
“My line of thinking is that we will have a project which is likely to take 10 or more years to complete,” he said.
“But what should be done is everything necessary to enable TasWater to make the necessary plans for staging that project and getting that project underway.
“My personal view is that start should be sooner rather than later.
“I’m not in a position to announce funding but if we start now, rather than waiting until another election, then it’s going to be completed sooner.”
Infrastructure Australia in February set out a list of 93 priority projects for all states in its 15-year plan and highlighted the need for sewerage infrastructure upgrades in Tasmania.
Representations have been made by TasWater to the federal body for funding towards a new $285 million sewage treatment plant which would cut the amount of raw effluent discharges by about 30 per cent.
Mr Nikolic said the Tamar River deserved a bipartisan approach to solving its problems and that he hoped Mr Hart was successful in obtaining funding.
He said he had recently received a report from engineering consultants Beca on Launceston sewerage network, funded by $500,000 from the federal government after the last election.
The report determined how the city’s seven archaic sewage treatment plants could be improved.
Mr Nikolic said if re-elected, he would continue to fight for federal funds to fix the problem once state and local government bodies coalesced on a solution.
“We now have the Beca report that says how we can fix things over three or four political cycles,” he said.
“We’ve made some quick improvements (and) we have money for the Tamar River Recovery Plan.”