Water security is shaping up as the key issue for the upcoming Tweed shire election, but does the Tweed need a new $80 million dam?
The contentious on-again, off-again proposal to build a dam at Byrrill Creek to boost water supply for future growth is surfacing as the main issue for voters at the upcoming election for Tweed Shire Council.
A new council could overturn the current 20-year ban on building any new dams, which was adopted by councillors with the mayor’s casting vote last September.
A rescission motion since to overturn that narrowly failed and conservative candidates have made it clear they aim to push for a new dam to accommodate future development.
This Saturday August 18 at Murwillumbah, a combined meet-the-candidates and water forum is putting the issue firmly on the agenda, with candidates asked their views on water strategies for the future.
The issue could also be raised at tonight’s meet-the-candidate forum at Cabarita Sports Club at 7pm.
Saturday’s water-forum meeting will hear from two water-management experts and is organised by the Caldera Environment Centre and Northern Rivers Guardians, which strongly oppose building of dams, opting instead to create a sustainable water future for the shire.
Fifty-nine candidates are contesting the seven seats on council, most of them in 12 groups, after nominations closed last Wednesday for the September 8 poll.
The 12 groups, which the seven councillors are likely to be made up from, appear to be evenly split on the pro-dam or anti-dam question.
On the no-new-dam side are groups led by current councillors, mayor Barry Longland (Group E), the Greens’ Cr Katie Milne (Group H) and Kingscliff-based Cr Dot Holdom (Group J). They are joined by Country Labor’s ticket headed by Michael Armstrong (Group G), Uki-based Eddie Roberts (Group K) and Murwillumbah cafe owner Gary Bagnall’s Group L.
On the pro-dam side are conservative councillors Warren Polglase (Group B), Phil Youngblutt (Group D) and Kevin Skinner (who is running on Jayne Henry’s Group C ticket). The three voted for a new dam at Byrrill Creek.
They are joined by Cobaki grazier/developer Bruce Campbell’s Group I. Mr Campbell says he supports moves to build further water-storage facilities.
Two groups yet to show their hand on the dam issue are Group A, headed by rate-rise opponent Kaye Sharples, and Group F, made up of local businesspeople headed by Carolyn Byrne.
Anti-dam campaigner and Byrrill Creek resident Jo Gardner, whose home could be inundated by a new dam, is running in the second spot on popular Greens Cr Katie Milne’s ticket and could be elected.
At the last council election, Cr Milne fell just over 40 seats short of securing a second seat and this time around the Greens councillor is expected to boost her vote. The popular councillor received a record 20 per cent of the vote on her successful first attempt at entering politics four years ago.
Ms Gardner told Echonetdaily the upcoming election was crucial in sorting out water issues and urban planning.
She urged everyone to ‘make every effort’ to attend the forum, from 9.30am to 12.30pm at Murwillumbah’s Autumn Club.
The first part of the forum will include presentations by Amanda Otto, co-ordinator of recycled water for Gold Coast Water and project manager for the groundbreaking Pimpama Coomera Water Futures project, and Craig Zerk, a longtime civil and environmental engineer who worked for Ballina Shire Council for seven years.
The award-winning Pimpama project is one of the few in Australia to integrate water-saving initiatives on a large scale, for a community of up to 150,000 people.