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HomeLatest NewsNorthern Beaches will not pay for state enforced water quality testing

Northern Beaches will not pay for state enforced water quality testing

The NSW State Government is suspending the free water quality testing service they have been offering Sydney’s coastal councils for decades and making them chip in for it. 

Sydney Councils had up until this June to decide whether they will pay to join the new state-enforced Universal Beachwatch Partnership Program, but after major backlash a 12 month extension has been provided. 

The Northern Beaches is just one of the councils affected by the program, leaving Mayor Sue Heins to ponder where the money to fund it will come from.

“We’re one of the larger coastal council areas,” Mayor Heins said.

“It may be $130,000, it may be more. What do we cut to pay for it, would be my question.”

Northern Beaches Mayor Sue Heins

Northern Beaches Council unanimously voted against paying for the program at their last Council meeting.

“We voted the way that we did, to make sure that the state government knows that we are absolutely against this. This to us is just another level of cost chipping to make sure they get user pay.

“We’re totally against it as (are) other coastal councils and we’re hoping that with a combined voice, they (the State) will take notice because the consequence of this is going to be a real strain on the health system. And it’s avoidable. Drives me nuts.”

Northern Beaches water testing could cost upwards of $100,000. Photo: Northern Beaches Council

The original Beachwatch program was implemented in 1989 in an attempt to record and report sewerage, algae and pollution contaminating Sydney’s most popular swimming spots.

Today, 14 Sydney coastal councils are benefitting from Beachwatch with the former (Liberal) Government contributing $18.5 million in their last budget to expand the program.

Labor has contributed the same amount in their 2022-23 budget to replace it with their Universal Beachwatch Partnership Program, sharing the costs of water quality testing with all NSW councils.

Minister for the Environment Penny Sharpe argued this will create a more equal system as regional areas have always paid for their water testing.

“The NSW Government is committed to ensuring an equitable service and good program design for all councils across the state.

“We are dedicated to genuine partnerships with councils, and look forward to working with them to ensure Beachwatch can give the community confidence to swim in more waterways across NSW,” Minister Sharpe said.

Crowds flock to Manly Beach on Australia Day. Photo: Alec Smart

However, Mayor Heins pointed out that regional councils have their own water authority so have to do their own testing.

In Sydney, its state run. Beach water safety information is also important for tourism, she added.

“The difference is in the regional and rural areas, they are their own water authority. So they’re responsible for their water, drinking water, and sewerage,” Mayor Heins said. 

“This isn’t the same at all, this is the beach where people come to swim. Otherwise, you’re saying that we should be like Sydney Water and test all the water? There’s no comparison.

“We know that people get ill after major weather events and it’s important to know which beaches are clean and healthy and safe to actually swim at.”

“We know that people get ill after major weather events and it’s important to know which beaches are clean and healthy and safe to actually swim at.”

The new shared water testing payment initiative was to be implemented this June, but after major backlash, the State Government has decided to extend the consultation period another 12 months.

A statement from the state government said the extra time will provide affected councils with further consultation on changes to the funding model and design of the program.

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Manly Observer is an experiment in providing non-sensationalist hyperlocal news on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. We cover the big news across the LGA, but with a hyper focus on the Manly electorate encompassing Balgowlah, Seaforth, Freshwater, Brookvale and Curl Curl up to Dee Why. It is run by those living in the community for the benefit of an informed community. We care about an informed and connected community. That’s it. Simple. Thank you for your support in keeping quality local news alive!

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