Last night Tweed Shire Councillors were all set to vote on seeking a stop to future water mining in Tweed Shire from the state government. However, just prior to the council meeting the council staff report on water mining was queried.
‘Councillors and staff received an email from the NSW Office of the Chief Scientist just 25 minutes before the meeting began that raised some concerns with some of the wording in the staff report and queried whether Council had consulted the correct NSW Water Authority,’ Tweed Mayor, Katie Milne, told Echonetdaily.
President of Northern Rivers Guardians said that there had been over 1,000 public submissions received by Tweed Council that opposed water mining and five in support.
‘In February we were one of the groups that met with the NSW Chief Scientists team who were looking at the issue of water mining in the Tweed and they basically said they don’t know how water mining will impact on the region,’ said Mr Sledge.
‘They said that there is not enough information or monitoring to really understand the connectivity between the different layers of aquifers and the hydrogeology in the Tweed Valley as there is insufficient monitoring in place.
‘During the recent drought many people in the bush could no longer access water and were buying it in. Yet you had water being trucked past their properties daily to be bottled up on the Gold Coast and sold off in plastic bottles. I think that is why there was such a huge response to council from locals in this issue.
‘We take the view that the public has a right to be protected against commercial interests and that the publics water supply should be protected. We are happy that council is pursuing a no more licence for water mining policy.’
What does the future hold?
When contacted in December about putting a temporary halt on water extraction in Tweed Shire during the drought the office of the NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey directed Echonetdaily to the report NSW Northern Rivers Bottled Water Final Report. Released on in October 2019 the report states that water bottling only represents ‘0.008 per cent of the estimated total annual aquifer recharge in the four relevant groundwater sources.’ However, as Mr Sledge pointed out to the Chief Scientist in a February meeting that ‘We don’t know what the future holds in relation to rainfall in this region with climate change. While this is a small percentage of rainfall it is based on historic rainfall and especially now, in a drying climate, we should be applying the precautionary principle.’
As a result of the NSW Office of the Chief Scientist’s concerns about the staff report the motion to defer the decision on requesting a moratorium was deferred.
‘In a move that surprised everyone there was a unanimous vote by Councillors to give in principle support to the planning proposal but to defer the item to consider the matters raised by the Chief Scientist,’ said Mayor Milne.
‘There was palpable disappointment from the public gallery but general understanding that it was better to make sure all the processes were correct than risk the State Government refusing the proposal on a technical matter.
‘The correspondence from the Chief Scientist was tabled at the meeting and will be available in the minutes.’