Tweed shire councillors will debate tomorrow (Tuesday) whether to conduct a poll of voters in September to gauge the level of support for the controversial Byrrill Creek dam project.
But while Cr Joan van Lieshout wants the next council election to double up as a poll for the dam issue, anti-dams campaigner Joanna Gardner says it’s premature while an independent review of water management for the shire is taking place.
Ms Gardner has also called on councillors not to back the move, saying it’s a ‘blinkered’ approach to the water-supply issue as it does not include boosting capacity of the existing Clarrie Hall Dam or other water-saving measures such as dual reticulation.
The move by Cr van Lieshout comes several months after mayor Barry Longland used his casting vote to stop a previous narrow decision to dam the Byrrill Creek valley. Cr Longland’s predecessor as mayor, Cr Kevin Skinner, had used his casting vote to push ahead with the dam plan in 2010.
On both those votes, Cr van Lieshout abstained after declaring a conflict of interest as she and her husband owned land at Kunghur they planned to develop which would be affected by the dam.
But she failed to support an alternative plan to boost water supply by increasing the height of the walls of the Clarrie Hall dam, leaving the council in limbo on which way to boost water supply for future population growth.
Cr van Lieshout’s notice of motion also suggests the shire may want to sell water in future to ‘neighbouring regions’ such as the Gold Coast.
At last Thursday’s community access meeting, Ms Gardner slammed the proposed poll as a ‘blinkered’ approach to water issues and one-sided, saying the council election ‘should not be a forum of just one issue, but of the multitude of issues we are facing in this shire’.
Cr Longland agreed, saying residents should be given all options for water supply, not just one, and the question would be too general.
Ms Gardner said council should wait for completion of the independent review of the Integrated Water Cycle Management Strategy which includes looking at the various water-supply options.
But she says that review will be flawed and not ‘integrated’ because water supply should not be split from water demand.
‘Water-sensitive urban design, stormwater detention/capture, reducing nutrient discharge into rivers and estuaries, encouraging environmentally sensitive development, reuse of water and dual reticulation in new developments have not actually been implemented by council at all,’ she told councillors.
She says the need for a new dam also could be negated using these measures and the fact water consumption and projected population figures had decreased.
‘This blinkered approach by the majority of councillors that Byrrill Creek dam is the only solution indicates to me that despite my various community accesses, education, copies of submissions, statements and facts from National Parks and ecologists, despite state policies, despite the water-sharing plan prohibition, despite the 45 threatened species, despite your own staff’s recommendation, that to choose to go ahead with the Byrrill Creek dam is irresponsible from a scientific, fiscal and democratic point of view from the ratepayers of this shire,’ she said.
‘To lay this responsibility of choice on residents, who are not acquainted with the facts, to hopefully back what you want, is shirking your own responsibility for decision making.
‘This was also accentuated by councillors’ last decision to not endorse Clarrie Hall Dam, if you couldn’t have your own choice of Byrrill Creek dam, and by not supporting greater water saving in new greenfield developments either.’
She says at the very least, the poll should be multiple choice to include sustainable water savings in new developments, the Clarrie Hall Dam upgrade or Byrrill Creek dam.