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May 15, 2021

Was water mining approval a ‘foregone conclusion’?

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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.

Council response

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.

Candidate meeting

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  1. If Council is really listening to the people they represent, they would not be approving any more water mining applications. The public outcry against water mining is huge and should not be ignored. There should be a moratorium on the approval of any more water mining applications until the outcome of the recent Council resolution to remove water mining as a permissible use for commercial purposes from the Local Environmental Plan.

    Greens state candidate for Tweed Bill Fenelon is unequivocally opposed to water mining for commercial purposes. If elected, he will push for this Council resolution to be ratified. He will also investigate ways that existing water mining approvals can be revoked so that we can put an end to this environmentally-destructive water mining industry once and for all.

  2. Council’s claim that they finalised a recommendation report prior to the submission period closing on grounds of urgency and serving the community’s need for resolution of the matter is utter rubbish.

    Firstly, what remains unresolved is the fact that Mt Warning Spring Water has been in chronic breach of its conditions and Council staff has done nothing to resolve this – except to kick it down the road. For over a year now.

    Secondly, there was nothing urgent in granting this amended DA. This operator has already – inappropriately – received a DA for virtually the same operation. The only reason it was urgent was because the operator wanted to continue his freedom to ignore the conditions of his approval and public concern clearly had him worried.

    So, let’s be clear – Council was doing the bidding of a water miner again and once again treating the community with contempt.

  3. You’d have to be a Bolshevik to understand Vince Connell’s explanation, it’s written or spoken in blurb. But the Greens are Bolsheviks so no problem there; the i’s not dotted and the t’s not crossed, gawd how that annoys these people. The picture from last year’s demo perfect casting, some wheelies up front where they can be seen, children, coordinated signage (3 or 4 messages is bout right, with linkage to party symbols) … you donate to an environmental organisation that’s whete most of your money goes, PR. People who actually work for the trees and birds and frogs usually do it for nothing.

  4. All that guff from bureaucrat Connell doesn’t mention that Mt. Warning Spring Water had been operating outside its approved DA for some time. Sending semi-trailer size bulk water tankers to Queensland is not a ‘water bottling’ business.
    The outcome of the December council meeting, thanks to Connell’s report and the three-and-a-half wise monkey councillors, served to legitimise an unlawful operation. No penalties were imposed on MWSW for its transgressions. Nothing.
    What sort of democracy do we live in when businesses can break the law as they please and a majority of Tweed councillors will condone and reward such lawlessness?

  5. Why on God’s earth isn’t Tweed council listening to their community? We unequivocally do not want water mining! Look what’s happening to our land.. it’s all drying up! Stop water mining now!!


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