The NSW Greens have called on state water minister Niall Blair to stop Tweed Shire Council pursuing the controversial plan to dam Byrrill Creek.
On Thursday, Tweed councillors will debate a bid to overturn a 20-year ban on the dam led by Uki-based Cr Barry Longland, who, as mayor in three years ago, led the charge to sink the dam.
The move has drawn flak from anti-dam campaigners and Greens MLC John Kaye who says lifting the ban ignores the realities of modern water planning and Mr Blair should ensure decisions on water in the Tweed were based on scientific evidence.
‘Building a dam like Byrrill Creek or raising the wall at Clarrie Hall should be the very last options,’ Dr Kaye said.
’They should only be considered after much cheaper and more effective measures like water efficiency, recycling and tanks have been entirely exhausted,’ he said.
‘Dams are more expensive and less reliable than most of the other options that have much lower environmental impacts.
‘This is the twenty-first century. Knee-jerk reactions like building dams will impose long-term costs on Tweed residents and provide, at best, second rate water security.
‘If this is about dealing with the impacts of climate change and population growth, then relying on dams will make the Tweed even more vulnerable to extreme drought.
‘Recycling and efficiency have proven to provide a more robust defence against the long dry periods and they can be scaled up as the number of housing units increase.
‘A viable option for the Tweed would be a far more intensive water efficiency and recycling effort. The existing programs are too small in scope and depth.
‘This is a test for Water Minister Niall Blair. He’s a member of the Nationals but he must rise above the outdated prejudices of some in his party.
‘The 2010 Water Sharing Plan ruled out a dam on Byrrill Creek for very good reasons.
‘This is a world-heritage listed area and a biodiversity-intense asset that should be protected for its natural values.
‘It is still in force, so Tweed Council can only go ahead with Byrrill Creek if minister Blair and the Baird government agree to amend the plan.
‘Mr Blair should at the very least bring in independent consultants to assess other options apart from Byrrill Creek and raising Clarrie Hall before any more effort is squandered on chasing last-century engineering works.
‘Even if he is not moved by the 71 endangered species that would be pushed closer to extinction, minister Blair should ensure that the Tweed is getting the cheapest and most secure water supply.
‘That means basing decisions on scientific evidence, not political prejudice.
‘Tweed Council is wasting time on re-opening a debate that was concluded almost four years ago.
‘The Tweed community deserves the support of a water minister who will protect household budgets and the unique environment by focusing the debate away from dams and onto the scientific evidence,’ Dr Kaye said.
Tweed Council recently commissioned a staff report into water supply augmentation options for the area’s future. The report is available at: http://j.mp/TweedCouncilWaterReport2015 (page 129).
The report recommends the raising of the wall of Clarrie Hall Dam as the most cost effective and best long-term solution among the options considered.
The maximum capital expenditure for the Clarrie Hall works was estimated to be $55.22 million and would supply water to the area until 2046.
Building a large dam at Byrrill Creek is considered the most expensive option with maximum capital works estimated to be around $105.26 million with a water supply until 2044.
Dr Kaye said these figures do not include the costs involved in the exploration, analysis or protection of the animal species, environmental habitats and cultural heritage that exist in the World Heritage listed areas around the proposed Byrrill Creek dam.
Cr Longland joins the pro-development National Party-aligned bloc on council inn their relentless push to reverse the dam ban.
The Uki-based councillor defended his stand last week by saying his position was ‘unchanged’, trelling Byrrill Creek residents he did’t support the Byrrill Creek dam option but that ‘the time for a decision has arrived after more than four years’ discussion, analysis and reporting’.
He said he favoured the raising of Clarrie Hall Dam, a longtime preferred option of council staff.
But Cr Longland was accused by dam opponents of ‘doublespeak’ by supporting the rescission to lift the dam ban on one hand, then claiming he would never support a dam at Byrrill Creek.
His rescission motion is expected to get up with a 4-2 majority (mayor Katie Milne and deputy mayor Gary Bagnall opposed), and will be followed by a notice of motion by Cr Carolyn Byrne to put the Byrrill Creek dam option firmly back on the agenda.