A majority of Tweed Shire councillors voted last week to allow a former Labor MP to operate a water mining operation, which would see a maximum extraction volume of 24 megalitres (roughly ten Olympic sized swiming pools) per year.
The contentious development application (DA) from Jack Hallam has seen strong opposition from residents and is located 4.4km south of Uki on Rowlands Creek Road.
According to the agenda minutes, the ‘bulk loading/delivery of extracted water and roadworks’ DA was supported by Crs Warren Polglase, James Owen, Pryce Allsop, Reece Byrnes, while mayor Katie Milne, Crs Chris Cherry and Ron Cooper were against.
While there are strict consent conditions on the development, a rescission motion was lodged from councillors Milne, Cherry and Cooper. The rescission motion will be dealt with at the planning committee meeting of October 4.
Resident Jeremy Tager claims a report supplied to councillors, called the Potential Impact of Groundwater Pumping on Rowlands Creek, was ignored.
Tager says, ‘It directly contradicts the conclusions of the pumping study and makes it clear that Council cannot be satisfied that there will be no adverse impacts.
‘These findings were ignored.’
The Echo asked Labor councillor Reece Byrne if that claim was correct, and if so, ‘Why was this report not considered?’
Instead, Byrne told The Echo, ‘The matter of water licensing and water extraction activities remains a responsibility of the NSW state government, as Council’s role is limited to essentially the approval of truck movements on our local roads.’
The Echo also asked Byrne, ‘Why do you support this DA? Do you consider Mr Hallam, a former ALP minister, a personal friend? Is there a conflict of interest in this vote – and if not, why not?’
He replied ‘The advice from Tweed Shire Council engineers and planners recommended approval for this application and I supported their clear evidence-based advice.
‘Shared political views do not constitute a conflict of interest and I continue to act with utmost integrity in all my duties as an elected official of the Tweed Shire.’