A rally at Tweed Council chambers on Monday (November 12), heard more than 99 per cent of Uki residents want water mining banned in the Shire.
Representatives of the Tweed Water Alliance and the Water Dragons met with the Tweed mayor Katie Milne and deputy mayor Chris Cherry who assured them that council are listening to the community’s concerns and taking the issue seriously.
‘Applications for new DAs will be looked at more closely and the community submission process will be more transparent’, Cr Milne said.
The mayor says she has a motion coming before the next council meeting that would remove water mining as a permissible use under the Local Environment Plan (LEP) but she has warned that walking back existing approvals would be more problematic.
Following the meeting, around 200 concerned residents staged a rally on the steps of the council chamber, where they were joined by the Greens state candidate for Lismore, Sue Higginson, and the Greens federal candidate for Richmond, Michael Lyon, who are also pushing to end the industry.
In light of a recent water extraction application in Alstonville, water mining has become a regional issue, with the Greens calling on the state government to direct Ballina and Tweed local councils to prohibit water mining.
‘We need a consistent approach across the Northern Rivers, with Ballina and Tweed councils adopting the same prohibition on water mining as Lismore and Byron councils,’ Ms Higginson said.
Cr Lyon said, ‘water mining as an industry is absolute madness in a time of drought and climate change’.
‘It takes up to seven times as much water to create the plastic bottle and packaging as goes into the bottle, not to mention the transport miles and plastic waste issues.’
Residents and farmers say they are worried about the environmental impacts on the shared groundwater and the use of harmful disposable plastic water bottles.
Uki locals say they are also fed up with the barrage of trucks rumbling through their formerly peaceful town.
Lack of enforcement
There is also concern that Tweed Council is failing to enforce the rules on water miners, some of whom have been exceeding their allowances and operating outside the council’s consent conditions for years.
Two weeks ago, Cr Milne called on residents to ‘have patience’ while the council sorts out the best way to deal with the issue.
Her call came just days after activists blocked water trucks from a water mining business, which in turn followed a protest at a council meeting last month when another Uki development was approved.
Northern Rivers Guardians spokesperson Scott Sledge said the community was being asked ‘to effectively subsidise the water miners who truck water out on large tankers, some being b-doubles of 19 metres long’.
‘These trucks carry our water to bottling plants in Queensland and the tax payer fits the bill for repairs to the roads.’
‘Tweed Shire Council has recently approved a fifth water mining operation despite serious concern and overwhelming submissions objecting to the DA for a license to extract water at Rowlands Creek Road, near Uki.
‘Each of the existing four operators are in chronic breach of their consent conditions.
‘The only monitoring has been by citizens’ observations as no metering is required, so we only know how much water is being taken from our aquifers by calculating the size and number of the trucks.’
Mr Sledge said he believed the council was not going to come down hard on these businesses.
‘We have been getting signals that Tweed Shire Council is not eager to enforce the rules on water miners,” he said.
‘Council staff are said to be frightened to take on commercial interests because costs of taking legal action can be expensive.’
‘Tweed Shire is now the water mining capital of Australia, however a Tweed Water Alliance survey shows 99 per cent of Uki residents do not support water mining.’
In its Lock the Gate style street survey of 526 Uki residents, the group says just two supported water extraction in the area.