The future water mining was under the hammer at last nights Tweed Shire Council meeting following a deferment of the vote at the previous March 5 meeting.
The Councillors were considering the removal of clause 7.15 from the Local Environmental Plan (LEP) that would not allow any future approvals of new water mining in the Tweed Shire. It does not exclude existing and operational water bottling facilities.
The previous vote had been deferred following the last minute email from the NSW Deputy Chief Scientist ‘Dr Chris Armstrong [who] submitted a 5-page letter by email before Council was due to vote on the removal of the clause’.
‘‘We found it curious that the Office of NSW Chief Scientist and Engineers chose to dramatise some minor discrepancies in the report council staff prepared for the councillors for the previous March 5 meeting of council via sending an email regarding theses discrepancies a half an hour before the vote,’ said Tweed Water Alliance (TWA) spokespersons Trevor White.
‘Councillors voted unanimously on prohibiting water extraction at last night’s meeting, maintaining the surprise vote that shocked but delighted the community at the previous meeting when the vote was deferred but in – principle support was given unanimously,’ Mayor Katie Milne told Echonetdaily.
Councillor James Owen said ‘The unanimous vote to change the Tweed Local Environmental Plan (2014) to prohibit any future water bottling facilities from being established in the Tweed Shire is fitting, and in line in line with community expectations.
‘There is significant community opposition and concern to the expansion of the water bottling industry in the Tweed and the hydrogeology and recharge behaviour of the Tweed’s groundwater systems are complex and may never be well understood.’
However, Councillors had been bitterly divided over water extraction until the last Council meeting when the unexpected, in principle, unanimous vote occurred.
‘The TWA welcomes the unanimous vote by Tweed Shire Council (TSC) yesterday to remove clause 7.15 from the LEP. It is pleasing to see that the three councillors who have consistently supported water mining in the past, have finally respected the will of the community. We presume that they have acknowledged the precautionary principle (that is, if you don’t know what the impacts are – don’t do it). We hope to see them continue to observe it in any future votes on the expansion of the exisiting operations.’
However Mayor Milne says that, ‘Many suspect this about face of the conservation Councillors is an unashamed political ploy with the election on the horizon.
‘We may be closer to prohibiting new water extraction developments than we realised. At yesterday’s Council meeting the Director of Planning clarified that with new delegated plan making powers Council no longer needs the Minister to sign off on the plan.
‘We do need to work with the NSW Parliamentary Counsel on the wording of the actual legislation so we are hoping that goes smoothly and quickly.
‘We will be writing to the Department seeking a quick turnaround with the Parliamentary Counsel considering the community angst over this activity.’
Councillor James Owen said that ‘As a result I felt it better to take a precautionary approach to water extraction and I believe that tonight’s vote is a positive outcome for the Tweed community.’
None-the-less the TWA said they will not be dropping their vigilance in respect to current water extractors in the Tweed Shire.
‘The TWA will continue to monitor the existing operators to ensure they comply with the existing consent conditions and we will strongly oppose any future applications by those operators to expand,’ said Mr White.