A pre-election bid to lift a 20-year moratorium on building a dam at Byrrill Creek was defeated on Tuesday when Tweed mayor Barry Longland used his casting vote to block it.
Pro-dam councillors Kevin Skinner, Warren Polglase and Phil Youngblutt had lodged the rescission motion to overturn the 15 May decision banning the dam, but the vote was tied 3–3, prompting the mayor to use his casting vote again on the issue.
The deadlock came after Cr Joan van Lieshout abstained for what she called ‘a perceived conflict of interest’ because her family owns land adjoining the dam site.
Cr van Lieshout, who supports a dam as a means of boosting the shire’s future water supply, said she believed she didn’t have a conflict of interest but the community had perceived it.
If the rescission had succeeded in the second last council meeting before the 8 September local-government elections, the contentious dam proposal would have been elevated as the main issue for voters.
Speculation was rife before yesterday’s meeting that the rescission motion had been lodged because the pro-dam councillors believed Cr van Lieshout would finally vote on the issue and support them.
However, if that was the case, they were in for a rude shock.
Cr Kevin Skinner said he was ‘surprised’ and ‘extremely disappointed’ that Cr van Lieshout had left the chamber and ‘chosen not to vote’.
Cr Skinner, who bows out of council at the 8 September local government elections,
claimed a majority of people in the shire favoured building a new dam.
He said the option of raising of the existing Clarrie Hall Dam wall to boost water supply lacked ‘future foresight’.
But Cr Dot Holdom praised Cr van Lieshout for ‘doing the right thing regardless of how she felt about the dam’ and that she should be respected for that ‘especially as her property could be inundated’.
Cr Holdom said the shire had to augment its water supply and the raising of the existing dam wall, favoured by the community working group (CWG) on the issue, was the way to go and would cost around $34 million.
She said she was ‘tired of the uncertainty’ about future water supply with no option in place, and council had ‘abrogated its responsibility’ on the issue by not moving on the recommendation by the CWG.
‘The reality is we can’t afford the Byrrill Creek dam at this point in time,’ she said, referring to the cost of around double the Clarrie Hall Dam option.
Cr Katie Milne slammed Cr Skinner’s claim that a majority favoured a new dam, saying that was the ‘same wording’ he and others used to back the controversial world motor rally that ran in the Tweed in 2009.
Cr Milne said she felt further investigations of water-saving measures should first be tried as there was no need for either of the dam options.
In one of his first moves as mayor, Cr Longland used his casting vote last October to overturn the decision by his predecessor, Cr Skinner and pro-dam councillors to forge ahead with planning for the Byrrill Creek dam, replacing it with the 20-year ban.
But a motion to raise the wall at Clarrie Hall Dam was also lost, leaving the Tweed with no plan for future water supply.
* During the first week of August, Echonetdaily will run comprehensive coverage of the upcoming local government elections.