In one of the most shocking political moves I have experienced in my seven years on Tweed Shire Council, Cr Barry Longland has reneged on the agreement he made with me just over a month ago on Tweed’s future water security.
Cr Longland and I had reached a much lauded compromise to progress the planning for the Clarrie Hall Dam expansion in exchange for undertaking an independent review on Council’s water management options.
We had held long negotiations over many days to nut out this agreement, word by painstaking word, with the assistance of Joanna Gardner, a member of council’s former Community Working Group (CWG) on water options.
This would have enabled planning processes for the dam expansion to begin, which will take at least five years, but ensured that in the meantime we were being prudent to seek a second opinion on this multi-million-dollar investment.
Now that Cr Longland had achieved what he wanted for the dam expansion, he teamed up with [National Party-aligned] Crs Warren Polglase, Carolyn Byrne and Phil Youngblutt to rescind his promise for the independent review, claiming that he didn’t understand the potential impact of the review.
He did not discuss this latest move with me before seeking the support of Crs Polglase and Byrne to put his rescission motion on the agenda.
He openly admitted at the last council meeting that he doesn’t want an independent review because it might show there were other options.
He admitted he is determined to expand the dam regardless and didn’t want any potential alternative finding of a review to get in the way of expanding the dam.
I think the community would be very concerned to know that Cr Longland is happy to throw ratepayers’ funds down the drain and avoid at all costs investigation of cheaper, more reliable and more sustainable options.
An independent review would have given the community the confidence to know that our studies had been peer reviewed and that we had the most fiscally responsible and sustainable option before embarking on this multi-million-dollar investment of a dam.
It is widely accepted that there are much better options than building dams these days. The National Water Commission clearly advises that the most reliable water security is a diverse range of water supply options, rather than just one big dam.
Council’s Community Working Group had requested an independent review six years ago but Cr Longland had refused to abide by this request, blocking my numerous attempts for this over many years, which had caused the stalemate on selecting the preferred future water option.
I had hoped Cr Longland would honour our compromise and stick to his word. I was wrong. Good governance for best practice water security will be an election issue yet again.
Tweed mayor Katie Milne