After years of raw sewage flowing into the Tamar River during high rainfall, a final solution to improving poor water quality will be found, the Premier has declared.
On a misty Saturday morning on the banks of the river, Premier Will Hodgman joined Treasurer Peter Gutwein, mayor Albert van Zetten and new Tamar Estuary Management Taskforce chairman, Alan Garcia.
In six months the new taskforce will hand down its recommendation to fix the river’s combined stormwater and sewage issue.
The recommendation will form part of the River Health Action Plan, due to be completed by January.
The establishment of the taskforce was a feature of the Launceston City Deal.
Mr Hodgman said it, along with the acceleration of TasWater’s sewerage treatment infrastructure projects, would result in a solution to the river’s poor health.
“No longer can we sit back and accept the fact that the river, here in Launceston, is subject to 1000 sewage outflows a year – that is third-world stuff,” he said.
Over the next six months the taskforce will determine the best solution for the combined sewerage and stormwater system.
Once the taskforce makes its recommendation, Mr Gutwein said the government would “layout a plan to get this problem fixed”.
He acknowledged previous investigations into a potential fix had delivered price estimates ranging between $20 million to $600 million.
Mr Gutwein said an accelerated infrastructure program for TasWater and getting the sewerage treatment plants “up to scratch” was the first step.
Mr Hodgman said the establishment of the taskforce, which includes representatives from several councils, was the most significant effort to finding a solution.
“This is by far and away the most strategic and comprehensive approach to dealing with what are complex issues,” he said.
“It is utterly unacceptable to have the river Tamar being subject to thousands of sewage outflows each and every year.”
Mr Garcia, the chief executive of Infrastructure Tasmania, said the taskforce would consult with experts.
“There’s any number of ways we need to tackle this,” he said.
“We need to review some of the work that has been done – there will be more work that will need to be looked at.
“We’ll have some expertise that we’ll need to bring in to look at some of the components that are there.”
Alderman van Zetten hoped some solutions could be implemented within several months, but said people would accept fixes that took longer.
The Tamar Estuary taskforce will hold its first meeting on August 3.