With public submissions on Rous County Council’s (RCC) proposed Dunoon Dam expected to be released Wednesday, December 16, Ballina councillor and RCC chair Keith Williams told The Echo that submissions he has seen so far indicate strong opposition.
Plans by bureaucrats to build an additional dam for the area sparked community concern, owing to it likley wiping out Aboriginal cultural heritage and destroying an endangered ecological community of lowland rainforest.
While Mr Williams says he is yet to see the written report, he says staff presented the community feedback at a recent Councillor briefing.
Around 1,300 submissions were received, he said, ‘consisting of approximately 350 online surveys and 950 emails/letters’.
‘The majority of these were from residents in the Lismore (Channon/Dunoon) area, with a relatively small number of 100 from each of Byron Shire and Ballina Shire.
‘An overwhelming majority of the written submissions oppose the Dunoon Dam, and requested that Council do more in water efficiency and purified recycled water. Councillors and staff have been focussed on these aspects’.
Mr Williams responded to claims by NSW Greens MP for Ballina, Tamara Smith, who said in her latest newsletter that she ‘continues to be denied access to community feedback on RCC’s proposed Dunoon Dam…’
Mr Williams said, ‘Ms Smith wrote to me some weeks ago, seeking early release of this information at a time when the materials were still being collated, and had not been reported in any form’.
‘I advised I was unable to meet her request at that time. Timelines for the delivery of services by consultants were impacted by the four week extension to the public exhibition period’.
He continued, ‘I’d be curious to know why Ms Smith thinks it’s appropriate to chastise RCC for conducting a transparent and open process over a 10 week submission period, but says nothing of a rushed and secretive process currently being conducted by the NSW state agency DPIE [Department of Planning and Environment]’.
‘Why is it Rous County Council’s responsibility to change its processes and timelines, rather than the MP requesting DPIE to extend its consultation period, just as Rous did in response to public requests?
‘This is the same department currently consulting the community on the regional water strategy, but withholding crucial data and modelling.
‘While our overall rainfall will only fall slightly, we are at greatly increased risk of facing multiple year droughts as a direct result of climate change. I’ve been told about it, but denied access to any written material. Why is the department not telling the community about this?’
More stories about the Dunoon Dam
Support for the idea of new dam in Byron’s hinterland has again emerged as part of a Ballina mayoral campaign.
As Water Week draws to a close, with a theme of 'Caring for Water and Country', a group of Widjabul Wia-bal elders have emphatically said they do not want the Dunoon Dam proposal to be put back on the table by pro-dam councillors.
A redacted copy of the 2013 Ainsworth Cultural Heritage Impact Assessment document has been made publicly available on the Rous County Council website, clarifying the extensive Widjabul-Wiabul connections with the land which would have been inundated by the Dunoon Dam.
The Council elections are coming in December and the issue of water security has become a key issue for Ballina Shire Councillors as Mayoral candidates Cr Sharon Cadwallader and Cr Keith Williams. Both Ballina councillors are representatives on the Rous...
Cr Cadwallader's second version of the motion came with an extra suggestion referring directly to the dumped option of a new hinterland dam in Dunoon.
Cr Cadwallader has taken advantage of a local government rule allowing councillors to reintroduce a failed motion without having to wait three months if they have the signed support of at least two other councillors.
Cr Cadwallader said earlier this year she’d be running for mayor in the next local government elections and that water security, particularly the dumped Dunoon Dam proposal, would be one of her key campaign issues.