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Byron Shire
April 15, 2021

Dunoon Dam, flash mobs, and water security

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WATER Northern Rivers are asking Rous County Council to look at alternatives to dams.

In a month’s time Rous County Council (RCC) will be deciding if they are going to pursue the proposed Dunoon Dam project.

Local group WATER Northern Rivers have formed in response to the proposed dam and are asking RCC and everyone in the region to look at ways of securing the future of water in the region that doesn’t include a dam.

On Monday a flash mob appeared outside the office of RCC in Lismore to present a petition of 525 signature petition signed by residents of the Northern Rivers asking them to ‘stop the Dunoon Dam and rethink water options’.

Why opposed?

The petitioners oppose the proposed dam because: it will destroy Aboriginal cultural heritage, it will destroy an Endangered Ecological Community of Lowland Rainforest, it will destroy habitat for 17 threatened fauna species, including the koala, Rous Water admits the dam will cause a 400 per cent increase in the cost of water, it is financially risky and irresponsible, given there are viable, cheaper, less destructive alternatives.

Other strategies

The petitioners support water security by: system-wide water efficiency and water, which was not analysed or costed by Rous; water reuse including purified potable water, which was not analysed or costed; water harvesting such as stormwater capture, and rain water tanks; implementing contingency planning to ensure rapid responses to drought.

WATER Northern Rivers asked the Chair, Cr Keith Williams to present the petition on their behalf.

‘He may not agree with everything outlined in the petition but we are asking him to present it in the spirit of democracy,’ said spokesperson Bianca Urbina.

‘Today marks the beginning of a call to action for our region. In exactly one month Rous will decide whether or not to go ahead with the proposed Dunoon Dam,’ said Ms Urbina as the flash mob performed outside the Lismore Office of RCC.

Over 1,000 responses

Talking to Echonetdaily Chair of RCC Keith Williams said that, ‘the petition will be presented to the December meeting of Council. It will be incorporated in the business paper. And I will make note to the councillors that there is a petition to council but it will also be formally part of the agenda.

‘We don’t have a procedure for petitions as it is not something we’ve really had before. That’s why it will be incorporated into the report that comes to the council so that it formally incorporated.’

According to Cr Williams there were roughly 900 written submissions and 350 online surveys completed.

‘Ninty-eight per cent of the written submissions expressed concerns about the dam and want us to be looking at demand management, recycled water, and rain water tanks. About 75 per cent of the surveys did not support dam option. The reasons were largely concerns about environmental and indigenous cultural impacts.

‘The 25 per cent in support were primarily where people identified the increasing demand that population growth is continuing exert and that as that increases we need the water to meet needs for population in the future.

‘What I was disappointed about the lack of discussion of climate change and that impact of that on our region in terms of the environment and water supply, drought etc.’

WATER Northern Rivers are asking Rous County Council to ‘Rethink Water’.

Lip service to community feedback?

‘It comes on top of a shocking revelation that the Rous County Council and Lismore City Council have already lobbied Melinda Pavey, Minister for Water for funding.

‘Let’s be clear about this, it’s not just funding for infrastructure or future water supply in our region. They have specifically requested funding for the dam, disregarding the community consultation process or the fact that it was shelved in 2013 due to the ecological and Aboriginal significance of the site.’

To find out more about actions taking place by Water Northern Rivers you can join their mailing list on the website.

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  1. I feel distrustful of Keith Williams’ comment about climate change being neglected by those of us who made submissions. I mentioned climate change as a KEY cause for concern in my submission and in private emails I have sent to individual councillors. The very real changes to our rainfall patterns and increase in summer temperatures as a result of climate change, THAT WE ARE ALREADY EXPERIENCING, should be reason enough to question the worth of another dam on Rocky Creek. Experts advise that we need to turn away from building more dams, when rainfall across the southern half of Australia is decreasing, frighteningly. We urgently need to change course and turn to more sustainable, drought-resilient and equitable options. This urgency is the OBVIOUS result of climate change. Maybe other people who apparently neglected to mention climate change, didn’t because it SO BLEEDING OBVIOUS, Keith!!!!! The fact that another dam on Rocky Creek would also destroy preciously valued Indigenous and Ecological Heritage should be the nail in the coffin of this outdated project. ALSO: Population growth is expanding too rapidly in this region, many of us agree, and we want better checks and balances on this growth, rather than creating yet another excuse for developers to go hell for leather. The generally wealthier coastal communities who need more water should not be stealing it from those of us further inland. Coastal developers should be required to contribute their own sustainable water solutions, such as is required in Warrnabool, Victoria, a coastal community with a lower rainfall than Ballina. All new developments must be built to harvest rainwater from rooftops which is then piped to a collective storage. Job done.
    I begin to wonder … is a big, unwanted infrastructure project another example of the endemic corruption we are seeing across NSW? I wonder what big company would be set to get the job of constructing it?
    The other thing Keith Williams forgets to mention about the dangers of climate change may well be the DANGEROUS OPPORTUNISM of parasitic entities!!!!

  2. If Keith Williams is really concerned about the effects of climate change in our region he will be pushing the dam off the table. We already have existing dam infrastructure and know that for a drought resilient water system (with predicted extended drought periods) 30-50% of that system should be rainwater independent. Why are we flushing and hosing down the drive way 98% of Rous’ potable water supply ? Shouldn’t we be using recycled water for this at least, increasing available potable water supply by ~98% and providing qatwr supply from within the system deeper into drought periods ?

  3. I’m astonished with Keith Williams’ comment about climate change. Experts outside this region have made it clear that adding a new rain-dependent dam will make us vulnerable to droughts in a hotter climate.

    Prof Stuart Khan (UNSW) says that a resilient system would have 30-50% of water coming from sources that don’t depend on rain, such as purified recycled water or desalination (both of which can be powered by renewable energy).

    The peak water utilities body Water Services Association of Australia describe new dams as ‘high risk investments’ because they depend on rain in a heating climate. They advise a complementary mix of strategies, including some that don’t depend on rain.

    Instead of new dams, the NSW Productivity Commission recommended a portfolio of complementary strategies, including water reuse.

    It’s Keith Williams and Rous that are ignoring all this advice about how we might build a climate-resilient water system, and instead are pushing on with last century’s dam.


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