Tonight the decision on further future water mining in the Tweed Shire will again come before the Tweed Shire Councillors.
Tweed Water Alliance have written to the NSW chief scientist, Professor Durrant-Whyte, over concerns of potential political meddling in the motion to remove future water mining in the Tweed Shire from the Local Environment Plan (LEP) that was before the last Tweed Shire Council meeting on 5 March.
Twenty-five minutes before the 5 March council meeting was set to commence the council received ‘an email from the NSW Office of the Chief Scientist … that raised some concerns with some of the wording in the staff report.’
In an open letter to Professor Durrant-Whyte and Tweed Shire Councillors Tweed Water Alliance said, ‘Our community was shocked and deeply disappointed by your office’s correspondence on Thursday, 5 March 2020 at 5.05pm that seemed to attempt to interfere with and influence the Tweed Shire Council in its vote on the Tweed Shire Council Planning Proposal PP18/0004 to Remove Enabling Clause 7.1 Water Bottling Facilities from the Tweed Local Environmental Plan 2014.
‘Deputy Chief Scientist Dr Chris Armstrong submitted a 5-page letter by email minutes before Council was due to vote on the removal of the clause. In this letter, he meticulously commented on details of Council’s Planning Proposal PP18/0004, raised questions, lectured on scientific principles, sought clarifications and expressed his concerns on a number of points.’
‘In our view the Deputy Chief Scientist directly sought to influence a decision of a local government body for political reasons and well outside the stated purview of the OSCE.’
An Independent Review of the impacts of the bottled water industry on groundwater resources in the Northern Rivers region had been published on 31 October, 2019. Dr Armstrong and representatives from the NSW chief scientist’s office had met with a diverse range of stakeholders including Council and the Tweed Water Alliance as part of the review.
In the letter Tweed Water Alliance further state that, ‘The report clearly concluded that commercial water extraction facilities in Northern NSW were formerly approved:
- without taking into account the severe effects of climate change;
- with a too simplistic view and no understanding of local conditions;
- based on an extensive lack of data and monitoring measures;
- neglecting current best practice methods,
- within a legal framework full of gaps and unclear responsibilities,
- without scrutinising their impact on environment and the community,
‘We do not accept what we see as an attempt to undermine the Tweed Shire Council’s decision.’
♦ The office of the NSW Chief Scientist was contacted for comment. No response was received before publication.