A Tweed councillor who, as mayor in three years ago, led the charge to sink a controversial plan to dam Byrrill Creek in the Tweed Valley, is now pushing to leave the door open to it in a move to reverse the ban on the dam.
Cr Barry Longland says his position is ‘unchanged’, after using his casting vote as mayor in May 2012 to successfully ban for 20 years the building of a dam at Byrrill Creek, the option pushed by the National Party pro-development faction on council to boost the shire’s future water supplies.
But the Uki-based Cr Longland has now joined that faction in a bid to overturn the ban, in a rescission motion to be debated at next Thursday’s meeting.
The move, expected to get up with a 4-2 majority (mayor Katie Milne and deputy mayor Gary Bagnall opposed) , will be followed by a notice of motion by Cr Carolyn Byrne (who signed the rescission notice with Cr Warren Polglase) to put the Byrrill Creek dam option firmly back on the agenda.
Cr Longland yesterday told residents of Byrrill Creek that his didn’t support the dam four years ago and ‘I don’t support it now’, but that ‘the time for a decision has arrived after more than four years’ discussion, analysis and reporting’.
In an email to residents angered by his move, as well as Echonetdaily, he said he favoured the raising of Clarrie Hall Dam, a longtime preferred option of council staff and other councillors.
‘Some councillors don’t want to do anything other than continue to talk and attempt to find reasons to do nothing,’ Cr Longland said.
‘With global warming and the pressure of providing water security for an expanding population, the risks of doing nothing are clear and present,’ he said.
‘If it is necessary to indulge in some political manoeuvring to overcome the “head in the sand” attitude of some than so be it.
‘Our continued success with demand management will do nothing to remove the need to augment at some time in the future.
‘Our challenge today is to take the hard decision for our grandchildren and their children.
‘Be assured though, that signing a rescission does not approve a dam at Byrrill Creek, something I would never do,’ Cr Longland said.
Greens mayor Katie Milne has been a longtime opponent of both dam options, preferring other cost-effective demand-management measures to secure water needs such as rainwater tanks, dual-reticulation in developments, water re-use and recycling.
But the numbers on council have changed recently, giving the conservative pro-development faction three of the six votes on council following the resignation earlier this year of Labor’s Michael Armstrong.
The move to dam Byrrill Creek has been a political football over the years and sparked the ‘Save Byrrill Creek’ movement, which was shocked by the latest move to overturn the dam’s 20-year moratorium.
In her notice of motion, Cr Byrne wants council to start planning immediately for both dam options and for talks to begin with neighbouring landowners over potential land resumptions/purchases.
She also wants council to seek state and federal funding for the project, admitting her move to proceed with the two dam options ‘is roughly estimated to be in the order of $1 to $2 million… as the current long term financial plan proposes pursuing a single option’.
Cr Byrne in her motion ‘acknowledges the significant reduction in demand for water drawn from the Tweed Water Supply since the adoption of the Demand Management Strategy in 2010 which has deferred the need for a new water source that, as well as the timeframe for securing a new water source is now 2026 due primarily to the predictions of the impact of climate change’.
She also wants council to continue to determine the feasibility of demand management options, including effluent reuse, rainwater tanks, water efficient fittings and fixtures and the change in behaviour of water users ‘for the purpose of reducing the present forecast demand, reducing the extraction of water from the natural environment, and prolonging the long term security of the water supply past 2046’.
‘Given the advice received with respect to the need for water security for residents of Tweed Shire beyond 2026 and the lead in times to do anything with regard to increasing water security for this region, council needs to start planning now for the needs of the entire community directly and indirectly,’ she says.
Cr Byrne wants council staff to report back every six months on progress on investigating the options, updating their risks, funding and land acquisitions.