A Tweed group opposing water extraction for bottling in the shire says staff published their recommendation to approve a development application on the Council website before public submissions had closed.
While Tweed Shire Council acknowledges it occurred, staff said the procedure was ‘not uncommon’ and denied it adversely impacted the final decision.
The Council last month approved a proposed modification to an existing water mining approval for the Mount Warning Springwater operation at Kunghur.
But the group says Council staff recommended its approval on the Council’s website before to the closing date.
Tweed Water Alliance spokesperson Trevor White said he was ‘appalled’ when he found out.
‘I lodged my submission on the closing day [and] the recommendation for approval from the Council staff was already on the Council website,’ he said.
‘The closing date for submissions was November 28 but the assessment report was posted before that date.
‘This yet again demonstrates Council ignores the Uki community. It is clear Council staff do not consider amenity, road safety and potential road damage when recommending approval for water mining proposals,’ Mr White said.
Last year demonstrators stood in the path of two semi-trailers in Uki carting water from the Mount Warning Springwater operation, out of the Shire, outside the allowable hours of operation.
But Tweed Shire Council’s director of planning and regulation, Vince Connell, said there were good reasons why the staff report was published a day before submissions closed.
He said that ‘in very limited instances, where there are legitimate grounds of urgency and expediency’ Council officers will finalise their reports ahead of time and ‘make note in those reports, that an updated assessment and report will submitted to the elected Councillors, prior to their determination at a Council Meeting’.
‘In respect of the development application to modify the existing development consent for the Mount Warning Springwater business, the decision to finalise the officers’ report to Council prior to end of the public notification period by one day was based on the legitimate grounds that all parties, including the proponents, the community and the elected Council were seeking an urgent resolution and clarification of the allowable operating conditions of this business,’ he said.
‘All of the additional submissions received after the finalisation of Council’s business paper for its December 6 meeting were further reviewed by Council’s staff, and updated advice, as well as copies of each of these submissions were forwarded to the Councillors prior to their determination at the meeting.
‘In terms of the officers’ assessment of these additional submissions, there were no further issues that warranted a change in the recommendation of approval of the DA to the elected Council.
‘As identified in the published report in Council’s Business Paper, the proposed modification was not seeking any changes to the nature or scale of the approved development, but rather sought to stage the already approved operations, and to provide all parties with a clearer understanding of their allowable operating conditions.
‘The reporting of this matter to Council in this manner and timeframe was also considered to be legitimate given the direct linkage between the DA report and the compliance issues identified in a separate confidential report on the Mount Warning water extraction operations, as it was considered an imperative for Council to consider both reports at the same meeting, rather than in isolation.
‘It also needs to be noted that if these items had not been determined at the December Council meetings, the next scheduled council meetings are in February, which would have only generated greater community concerns and uncertainty for the proponent.
Tweed Water Alliance is organising a public meeting for March 2 to give candidates the opportunity to speak directly to voters and state their position on water mining.