A call for the halt of water mining in the Tweed Valley has been made by NSW Greens MP and North Coast spokesperson, Dawn Walker in state parliament this week and is supported by the Tweed Water Alliance. Concerns over the impact on underground water resources, alleged poor compliance with extraction licenses and the damage caused by heavy vehicles have all been raised.
‘Water is our most precious resource and gigalitres of water beneath Tweed Valley are being sucked up and bottled for commercial profit, leaving the community high and dry with the impacts. Water mining licences are being handed out by the government without adequate monitoring and in many cases, water meters haven’t even been installed,’ said Ms Walker.
Water mining licences are controlled by the state government while work on the property and permission for truck movements are controlled by the local council.
‘We certainly support the ban,’ said Jeremy Tager, spokesperson for the Tweed water alliance who believes the water extraction companies are ‘operating lawlessly’.
‘Extracting water is a lose lose prospect for here and most other places. Water is taken away from local users; it creates little or no employment as most of the operators are water transporters. That means the trucks come in and get filled up and then are taken away to be bottled elsewhere.
‘They only pay a a small road contribution to drive these big trucks on rural roads that were never designed for them.’
In December 2017 the Tweed council voted to amend their LEP (local environment plan) 2014 to remove the clause that the previous council had put in to allow water extraction for bottling water in the Tweed shire. This has been sent to the state government for approval as part of the Gateway process. If the state government decide that the change can proceed then Tweed council will be able to put the LEP amendment on public display.
The state government can also request that a ‘savings clause’ be put in that would allow current applications that are waring to be assessed to be allowed.
Echonetdaily asked the state government what the time frame for responding to the Tweeds request for removing the water mining clause from the LEP was and if they would request the inclusion of a ‘savings clause’.
A spokesperson for the department of planning and environment responded stating that; ‘The department is currently in the early stages of assessing a proposal from Tweed Shire council to remove the water extraction and bottling clause to the Tweed Shire 2014 LEP.
‘No decision or gateway determination has yet been issued.’
Local extractor takes council to court
Larry Karlos, a local water extractor, is currently taking the Tweed Council to the Land and Environment court to appeal their decision not to allow them to increase the size of the trucks they use to transport water from six meters to nineteen meters.
‘The council refused the application for 19m trucks because they felt that the road was no suitable for that size truck,’ said Tweed Mayor Katie Milne.
‘Urlip Road is really narrow and in some places it is only one lane. There are also areas where it is very steep on one side and has a steep drop off on the other.
‘The council felt that it was inappropriate to use public funds to upgrade the road to a suitable condition for 19m trucks for the sole benefit of a commercial operator.’
Currently the Karlos family have permission for six full and six empty truck movements a day of a six truck six meters in length.
An on site court hearing was held at the Karlos property on March 22 to hear objections with more than 100 people attending.
‘There is a huge local objection to the use of the 19m trucks,’ concluded Mayor Milne.
The final day of the court hearing is set to be held in Sydney on April 30.