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Byron Shire
February 25, 2021

Ground water study ‘critically flawed’

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The anger is immense and the message is simple – Stop Water Mining. Angry Uki residents on Saturday October 27. Photo supplied.

The government’s much-trumpeted independent review of water mining in the northern rivers will fail to fully explore the impacts of the practice unless its scope is broadened to include environmental, agricultural and community factors, local farmers say.

The Save Alstonville Aquifer group says the terms of reference for the review, released last week, are far too narrow and limit the investigation to the water mining operations themselves.

‘On our reading of the terms of reference, there are a number of important issues which won’t be included,’ the group’s spokesperson Michael Hogan says.

‘These include the impact on local fauna and flora, the health of local creeks and rivers, or on our wetlands. It would also ignore the impact on local farmers in terms of both farming practices and personal wellbeing, and the wellbeing of the community more generally.’

The independent review was announced by Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair on November 20 in response to growing community anger over water mining, including protests in Uki and Murwillumbah.

It is likely to be an important issue for local voters in next year’s state election.

Alstonville DA

With the government so far resisting calls for a moratorium on water mining in the region, the Save Alstonville Aquifer group are hoping the review will provide ammunition for their fight against plans for a major extraction operation on their patch.

A local flower farm has lodged a development application with Ballina Council for an extraction and bottling facility capable of mining 100 megalitres of water per year on a site that is currently being used as a flower farm.

Victorian company Mountain Springwater would operate the facility, and claims there will be no negative impact for local groundwater users in the area.

But the farmers disagree, arguing that their own data suggests there would be a significant impact on the regeneration of local aquifers.


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7 COMMENTS

  1. We are very much hoping that the state government’s inquiry is genuine and comprehensive, not cynical politicking. The impact on the community should definitely be included particularly in relation to the water tanker trucks that have turned tranquil villages such as Uki into busy, dangerous highways. The increase in the amount of one use plastic bottles is also an unacceptable blight on a planet already choking on plastics. Tweed is now the water mining capital of Australia and this environmentally destructive water mining industry for pure greed and profit should be stopped completely and immediately!

  2. When the COALition’s Niall Bliar announced this inquiry it should have been obvious to all that he was simply seeking to neutralise water mining as an issue with a State election coming up.
    Of course this inquiry will not recommend stopping water mining. You didn’t need to see the terms of reference to know that this inquiry would be rigged and that water theft will be approved in the Northern Rivers.
    Anyone who has paid even the slightest attention to how “our” corrupt governments ride roughshod over us these days would know this whole ambit is a sham.
    And notice how quickly the Labor candidate Craig Elliott jumped in line with Nats Provest and Franklin to agree to this fake inquiry. When all’s said and done there really isn’t any difference between National or Labor. None.
    So are the people of this region prepared for another Bentley-style battle to protect our water? Or are enough of us prepared to elect Greens Bill Fenelon in Tweed and re-elect Tamara Smith in Ballina to stop this legalised theft of our vital water supplies at parliamentary level?

    • Bruce McQueen very clear summary of how regularly labor & LNP have ridden over communities historically & continuing now.
      Yes I did notice how quickly labor, & Nationals cash cow jumped at this rigged inquiry. Public interest, conflicts of interests abound.
      We are definitely supporting Tamara Smith to be re-elected and all other Greens in the region.

  3. “Victorian company Mountain Springwater would operate the facility, and claims there will be no negative impact for local groundwater users in the area”
    VERY REASSURING!!!! THE COMPANY BE HARDLY LIKELY TO SAY ANYTHING TO THE CONTRARY.

  4. The Tweed Water Alliance made that point in the consultation. The definition of sustainability has to take in the public interest, the ongoing plastic pollution and road damage as well as the recharge rates.

    However the terms of reference of the inquiry were framed because the Nationals are scared to death of the backlash from the farming community who are getting very antsy as streams are drying up.

    Mature flooded gums at Nobby’s Creek are turning brown. You’d have to be joining some fairly obvious dots.

    It’s almost a foregone conclusion that the COALition will lose the next election. Will Labor be any better?

    The Tweed Water Alliance will be demanding a public statement from all candidates for the state seats of Tweed and Lismore on the water mining issue.

  5. As a city person living in Brisbane I just cannot understand how any genuine farmer could support water mining. And I’m sceptical that there’s actually a drought on at the moment when water can be mined, put into bottles and sold to tourists and hipsters. Water is in abundance surely?

  6. LABOR: CALL FOR REVIEW OF COMMERCIAL WATER EXTRACTION

    NSW Country Labor Candidates for the State seats of Lismore, Tweed, and Ballina today called upon Northern Rivers Local Government Councils to suspend the granting of future Development Applications for commercial water extraction enterprises; and where applicable to remove special clauses in the Local Environment Plan (LEP) until a full review of the science of water extraction is held.

    Our announcement is straightforward – Labor in Government will hold a Parliamentary Review into the licencing of commercial water extraction to ensure such activity is sustainable and to address community concerns. Labor will always be guided by evidence based decision making.

    Council’s primary responsibility is to deal with truck movements, but the water extraction licencing system is run by NSW Water. NSW Water has been gutted under the Liberal – Nationals and compliance actions are nearly non-existent under the Berejiklian – Barilaro Liberal – National Government.

    That’s why we are calling on local councils to hit the pause button on any future development applications involving water extraction for bottling, or where applicable, remove the clause from their LEP.

    We urge the Berejiklian – Barilaro NSW Government to commit to a comprehensive review of the granting of water extraction licences and specifically the impact on our water table and aquifers.

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