By Luis Feliu
A public meeting at the Uki last night revealed a groundswell of widespread discontent around the Tweed Valley over proposals for large-scale extraction of water from bores and bottling for sale.
Uki Hall was packed with around 200 people from around the Tweed vocally against a controversial plan by a former state-government minister to extract water from a bore on his property to sell to a bottling company.
But locals from Dungay, Bilambil and Urliup also vented their anger at plans currently before Tweed Shire Council for contentious major water extraction in their neck of the woods.
Many at the meeting let several Tweed shire councillors attended that underground water supplies belonged to the whole community and should not be sold.
Late last year Uki locals rallied at a similar meeting when it was revealed that Rowlands Creek Road property owner Jack Hallam had lodged the plan to extract 24 megalitres of water a year from the bore on his property to sell it to the bottling plant.
Soon after, Mr Hallam withdrew the plan, but in October last year he then quietly re-submitted the proposal for ‘bulk loading and delivery of extracted water’, once again raising the ire of neighbours and Uki locals who called last night’s meeting.
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. The proposal is for up to three loads a day (six trips), six days a week from 7am to 6pm.
The bore is licensed by the NSW Office of Water for 25-megalitre extraction.
Opponents have expressed concerns about the potential impacts on the area’s underground water supply, as well as the proposed heavy truck movements.
One local said that would mean destroy the amenity of Rowlands Creek Road which would ‘cease to become a quiet country road’.
Others at the meeting said the underground water should not be exploited for sale as it belonged to the whole community and that depleting the underground source would also affect nearby water supplies.
One told Echonetdaily that ‘This is about commercially extracting our water to enable the likes of Coca Cola to bottle up in plastic, make massive profits at the cost of the environment’.
‘Massive water tankers driving continually along quiet country roads, possible water shortages, more and more non-biodegradable plastic bottles and the shocking list goes on’.
Another said ‘Now that the battle against coal seam gas mining in the Tweed has been won, is the next battle for residents and communities going to be “water mining”’.
‘It’s going on right under our noses in Tweed,’ she said, warning that the Urliup Road proposal of around 60 mega litres a year was ‘equal to 60 million litres of water from the water table’.
‘What must this be doing to the creeks and springs that feed the surrounding rainforest and vegetation? One would think it would be doing more harm than good.’
Submissions for the Uki proposal close on February 1, while the Urliup/Bilambil and Dungay Creek applications for similar proposals have been exhibited and are due before council soon.
Mayor Katie Milne, who was unable to attend the meeting, has vowed to back community opposition, while deputy mayor Chris Cherry spoke against the plan at last night’s meeting.