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December 2, 2021

Tweed mayor in late bid to sink dam plan

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Tweed mayor Katie Milne has put forward a motion to sink once and for all the contentious Byrrill Creek dam option.
Tweed mayor Katie Milne has put forward a motion to sink once and for all the contentious Byrrill Creek dam option.

Luis Feliu

Tweed mayor Katie Milne has proposed a last-ditch compromise move for tonight’s council meeting which could sink the plan to revive the controversial Byrrill Creek dam option.

Cr Milne’s move is aimed at thwarting a contentious plan by the National Party-aligned faction on council, with support from Uki-based Cr Barry Longland, to reverse a council ban on dams for 20 years and place the Byrrill Creek dam option back on the table.

But the Greens mayor has lodged a late notice of motion for council tonight to adopt the previously staff and community-preferred option of raising the wall of the Clarrie Hall Dam at Uki to secure the shire’s future water needs, instead of planning for a new dam.

It is a surprise backdown to her previous position for no multi-million-dollar dam works.

Cr Milne has repeatedly argued for water-saving measures such as rainwater harvesting and reuse to achieve future water security and is once again putting them on the agenda for tonight’s meeting.

Councillors tonight will debate the rescission motion to overturn the ban signed by Cr Longland, who, as mayor in three years ago, led the charge to sink the Byrrill Creek dam plan.

Cr Longland’s move, which he described as ‘political manouevring’ to try and secure his preference for raising the Clarrie Hall dam wall, has sparked a huge backlash from residents in the Tweed Valley as well as longtime anti-dam campaigners.

Ironically, he has come under attack from members of his own Uki Garden Club, who are upset at the move, with the club’s Facebook site drawing a swag of scathing posts from angry garden lovers in Cr Longland’s village, with one calling his political play as ‘dangerous’ and costly to ratepayers.

The NSW Greens have also weighed into the debate, calling on state water minister Niall Blair to stop Tweed Shire Council pursuing the controversial plan to dam Byrrill Creek, which they say ignores the realities of modern water planning.

Cr Milne’s mayoral minute calls for council to adopt the raising of the Clarrie Hall Dam wall as the preferred future water-security option and to proceed with planning and land acquisitions.

She also wants council to undertake a comprehensive independent review of council’s water supply-demand options ‘as a matter of priority, to ascertain further consideration of the most ecologically sustainable, climate change resilient, cost effective and socially acceptable long term water management and augmentation options available’.

‘Such a review should include, but not be limited to, a full range of demand management, drought security, and supply options,’ the minute reads.

Cr Milne also calls for the previous community working group set up to consider water-augmentation options ‘to be reconvened (with the exception for new councillor representatives), to recommend the terms of reference for the review, recommend the preferred consultant, and as a project reference group’.

Cr Longland maintains his position on the dam options is ‘unchanged’, and was forced to defend his backing of the rescission move on Facebook in response to fellow garden club members.

‘I will never support a new dam

He wrote:

‘Folks please understand that that I will never support a dam at Byrrill Creek – my opposition to that has not changed.’

‘My involvement in the rescission motion on the moratorium was about forcing some action on a decision to adopt the raising of the Clarrie Hall Dam wall as the preferred option for future water security for the shire.

‘I truly believe that this option is the correct one for our future and it is the only way to get the Byrrill Creek dam option off the table forever.

‘I won’t be supporting the motion and believeI will be able to find a solution through discussion with my colleagues before Thursday’s meeting. Thanks, Barry.’

Soon after he posted that, members answered with comments such as ‘Great to hear Barry Longland’ and ‘Gosh so much angst for the community over political games’.

Another said ‘It’s appalling that our elected representatives aren’t legally compelled to make effective rational decisions on our behalf rather than pet political ones’.

‘Why aren’t all new buildings required to to have rainwater tanks? Not enough revenue potential for empire builders?, the garden-club member wrote.

Even fellow councillor and garden club member Gary Bagnall  chimed in to say he couldn’t follow his (Cr Longland’s) logic either’.

Cr Bagnall said in his post that ‘Council officers recommended raising Clarrie Hall dam wall. A vote for that would have put Byrrill Creek to bed,’

He also reminded club members that Cr Longland had ‘put up an amendment that recommended raising the dam wall, as well as buying up properties around Byrrill Creek’.

The amendment got up with support from the conservative pro-dam faction, Cr Bagnall (who opposed it) said.

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  1. The problem with Milne is that the NIMBY and “block all development” attitude isn’t appropriate for a region with an ageing population and high unemployment.

    We need to attract more young people and to do that we need infrastructure, development and jobs. All we have seen out of Milne is obstinance, blocking housing developments and Woolworths in Murwillumbah


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