Tweed Shire Council is undertaking legal proceedings and compliance actions against three companies involved in water mining in the shire, claiming all three are breaching council conditions.
But it has stopped short of moving to ban the extraction of bulk water for ‘spring water’ operations, voting instead to hold a workshop with major stakeholders, which will ‘include discussion of the science of the water extraction’.
And Council staff are currently supporting another controversial proposal for Rowlands Creek Road, Uki.
Tweed’s director of planning and regulation, Vince Connell, told Echonetdaily the council is currently taking legal action to force the Karlos family, owners of an extraction business on Urliup Road, Bilambil, ‘to comply with the conditions of previous development consent’.
Various reports to Council have documented alleged non-compliance, as informed by public submissions,’ he said.
‘Council is also currently defending an appeal in the NSW Land and Environment Court in respect of the refusal of an application to expand the current Karlos water extraction operations,’ Mr Connell added.
Tweed Water Alliance spokesperson Jeremy Tager said members of his group recently photographed three tankers lined up along Urliup Road waiting to fill up from the Karlos facility in what he described as a ‘clear breach of a council ruling’.
Tweed Shire Council has previously voted to limit the number and length of the trucks carting water from the Karlos property each day, which is now the subject of the appeal.
But Mr Tager called on Council not only to defend the appeal but also to ‘begin prosecution and removing of unauthorised infrastructure’.
‘Council should also investigate the extent to which Mr Karlos has exceeded his water allocation and demand compensation from an operation that has consistently operated trucks at a level 600 per cent greater than his allocation would permit,’ Mr Tager said.
‘Tweed Water Alliance has a huge groundswell of community support and community members are continually reporting breaches of Development Applications,’ he added.
Water mining ban discontinued
The council has also resolved to take action against two other Tweed water miners: one on Bryens Road, Nobbys Creek, and another on Kyogle Road, Kunghur.
But at its meeting of July 19, Tweed Council resolved to ‘discontinue the Planning Proposal to prohibit water extraction and bottling’ and instead prepare ‘a new planning proposal to embed additional criteria and operational requirements into the existing LEP following a combined Council and Office of Water co-ordination workshop.
A report will be brought back to Council following the workshop, which is also to include representatives of the Department of Planning and Environment, Tweed Water Alliance and Mount Warning Spring Water.
The report will provide ‘recommendations on potential options for improving the operational management of water extraction and water bottling in the Tweed Shire, to include discussion of the science of the water extraction,’ Mr Connell said.
This process has met with outcries from water mining opponents, who say a number of new applications are already being prepared.
Already Council staff are recommending approval of Jack Hallam’s water mining operation in Rowlands Creed Road. The planning committee will make a recommendation on DA16/0936, which can be viewed here, to Council to be voted on at its meeting on Thursday September 6.
Mr Tager said the documentation ‘covers some 50 pages and is riddled with errors. It seems clear multiple strong objections have been dismissed’.
Councillor out of line
Controversial comments in a letter by Cr Pryce Allsop to a local newspaper on the subject sparked the ire of letter writers to Echonetdaily last week.
Mr Allsop wrote that ‘sometimes businesses may have to breach their conditions to grow and evolve and I believe this is acceptable to a degree’.
Trevor White, of Uki, responded that, ‘It is bizarre and more importantly extremely irresponsible to actually put a statement like this in print for the voters to see.
‘Council has voted to abandon the process of removing water mining from the LEP which has meant, according to the director of development services at Tweed Council, Vince Connell, several new water mining applications are about to be lodged.
‘This is despite the strong resistance to water mining by the overwhelming majority of residents in the shire, particularly those affected directly by water tankers, thundering past their doorsteps,’ Mr White wrote.
Menkit Prince, also of Uki,’ wrote, ‘When does it not become acceptable Cr Allsop? Is it okay to… mine excessive amounts of water to send over the border in times of drought? Where does he draw the line?’