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Byron Shire
August 15, 2022

Ex minister’s water-extraction plan riles Uki locals

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Water, water everywhere (and every drop for drink): Former NSW agriculture minister Jack Hallam pictured some years ago at his Uki property where he plans to establish a bore-water extraction facility for bulk transport to a giant soft-drinks bottler.
Water, water everywhere (and every drop for drink): Former NSW agriculture minister Jack Hallam pictured some years ago at his Uki property where he plans to establish a bore-water extraction facility for bulk transport to a giant soft-drinks bottler.

By Luis Feliu

A  former state agriculture minister’s plan to extract 24 megalitres of water a year from a licensed bore on his Uki property and transporting it to a global soft-drinks giant’s bottling plant has raised the ire of locals from around the Tweed Valley village.

Residents will meet near the property on Rowlands Creek Road today (Tuesday) at 4pm in protest and to learn more about the contentious plan now on public exhibition.

Jack Hallam, who was agriculture minister under the Wran Labor government in the 1980s, retired to his ten-acre property a few kilometres from Uki over a decade ago.

In October his consultant lodged a plan to use the existing 25-megalitere a year licence from the NSW Office of Water on the property for ‘bulk loading and delivery of extracted water’.

The plan involves taking a maximum of 24 megalitres of water from the existing bore by large semi-trailer tankers (2.5-metre wide, 28,500-litre capacity) to the commercial bottler and distributor, believed to be linked to the Coca Cola company.

The proposal is for up to three loads a day (six trips), six days a week from 7am to 6pm.

The site of the property on the corner of Rowlands and Chowan Creeks near Uki. Image Tweed Shire Council
The site of the property on the corner of Rowlands and Chowan Creeks near Uki. Image Tweed Shire Council

Mr Hallam’s development application (DA) states the plan would not impact on the environment or agricultural land use for the former grazing property that he’s transformed into a picturesque garden retreat.

The local planning controls, the DA says, also permit, with consent, its use as a ‘water bottling facility’ under current zoning.

But neighbours say potential impacts on the area’s underground water supply have not been addressed in the DA.

And the heavy truck movements on the rural road, they say, will spell the end of the quiet country road.

In his submission, Mr Hallam’s consultant states that as the existing bore is currently licensed by the state, ‘there does not appear to be a need for any further permits/approvals from any state government body, and therefore the proposal is not integrated development’.

Mr Hallam, 74, who entered NSW parliament as a 29-year-old rice farmer from the Riverina in 1973 and retired almost 19 years later, bought the Uki property and spent years converting the former grazing block into his dream retirement home and English garden, with a mix of native and exotic trees and shrubs.

The meeting today will be held opposite the Uki Sporting Horse Grounds.

To view the DA visit the Tweed Shire Council website at http://s1.tweed.nsw.gov.au/Pages/XC.Track/SearchApplication.aspx?id=723499


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5 COMMENTS

  1. Having trouble trying to read story, with a loud audio playing ! Can’t find anywhere to turn it off to get rid of it. Had to just turn sound off ! Still going!

    Re ‘Stealing/Profiteering’ Water Mining from the Earth’s Water Resource ….. it is just that …. Stealing, a precious resource that needs to stay in balance. How would the narrow winding road cope with water tanker traffic. If mining companies and governments sat we only own the top few feet? of land, how can someone exploit the water below it. I’ve heard stories of people not being allowed to dam creeks and water courses, so this shouldn’t be tolerated.

  2. This is another case displaying the complete lack of attention to social impact in planning decisions. Introducing daily large truck movements to previously quiet country roads doesn’t concern authorities one little bit as long as someone is going to make money.

    This development bears many similarities to the decision to override resident’s objections to the 20 plus daily heavy truck movements on The Gap Road near Woodburn to mine lmenite in the Bundjalung National Park. This is a road, up til now, used mainly by residents and as the only access road to the Park.

    Selling a precious resource like our natural water to a multinational to make soft drink seems to be ludicrous when the original approval for use of bore water would have been for personal survival and watering of stock and crops.

    If he keeps taking that amount of water every year from an aquifer surely his property will start to sink like Tokyo and Jakarta.

  3. I refer to Mr Hallam’s comments in this article regarding his “picturesque garden retreat”, and his statement at the public meeting held on 29 November where he reiterated that his landscaping would ameliorate the visual and noise pollution of this development. The Consultant’s Report in support of his application states there is “no significant vegetation” on the property.

    At the public meeting held on 29 November Mr Hallam also stated that the effect of his extraction on the water resource would be miniscule. Mr Hallam conveniently ignores the fact that NSW Water states two irrefutable facts – that alluvial aquifers are highly connected to surface waters, and that water resources are to be shared by the Rowlands Creek community plus the wider Tweed River area.

    The application covers 2 x 39,000 litre stainless steel tanks, plus a concreted loading area accommodating three semi-trailer tankers weighing 43 tonnes each fully loaded, 6 days per week, 50 weeks per year. Tankers exiting the property will of necessity cross to the opposite side of the road, close to a blind corner and blind hill. The Consultant’s report suggests that if Council reduce the speed limit at the applicant’s property to 50 kph the line of sight will be increased. For Council to even consider such a suggestion to benefit only the applicant is ludicrous.

    There are numerous other concerns raised by this ill-conceived application – disturbance to road users, pedestrians, cyclists, horse-riders and the primary school on this road by heavy vehicle movements. The DA omits provision for control of contaminant run-off, misrepresents traffic count statistics, provides no details on the narrow one-lane timber bridge plus only approximate measurements of the one-lane concrete bridge.

    In the Statement of Environmental Effect it is claimed there will be no social impact of the development. This assertion is not supported by any surveys, consultations or demographics.

    Of concern also is the affect on property value of all residences along Rowlands Creek and Chowan Creek Roads. If the D.A. is approved by Council, which benefits only one property owner, will they also compensate affected property owners for the diminution in their property values?

  4. Lots of bullshit in this article,

    1) The water is not being supplied to “a global soft-drinks giant’s bottling plant” eg. Coke. It’s being used locally (2.5 hrs away) as bottled drinking water.

    2) An intense independent survey has been conducted recently who’s findings prove that the impact will be less than 0.03% on the water supply and this survey will be publicly published

    3) The road in question Needs work. There are plenty of dangerous areas of the road that have been washed out recently because of rain and council has yet to do anything about it. If this project goes ahead, the whole road will be fixed benefiting all residents of the valley.

    4) The quiet country road??? Rowlands creek road hasn’t been quiet for years, Hardings, the local earthworks company use it like a raceway whilst driving their low loaders and tipper trucks and an increase in local residents partnered with an increase in connecting traffic to main arm has seen the road become anything but a quiet country road.

    Where do you idiots think our drinking water is going to come from??? We have huge amounts of growth from Byron to the Gold Coast, those people need water. And the reason they choose bottled spring water is because they don’t want to drink chlorinated, fluorided town water.

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