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.
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.