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October 28, 2021

Traditional owners say no to Dunoon Dam

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Widjabul Wia-bal Senior Elder John Roberts. Photo supplied.

Widjabul Wia-bal traditional owners of the area between Dunoon and the Channon have told Rous County Council not to follow Rio Tinto with the destructive Dunoon Dam.

They have told the General Manager of Rous County Council, Phil Rudd, that they will not accept the building of the proposed dam, which would inundate ancient burial sites and extensive evidence of occupation in the past and in recent times.

John Roberts, a Senior Elder of the Widjabul Wia-bal said, ‘I was one of the stakeholders consulted in 2011 about the impact of the Dunoon Dam on cultural heritage.

‘In the 2011 Cultural Heritage Impact Assessment prepared for Rous, we stakeholders said with one voice that no level of disturbance was acceptable to us. We still say that. Nothing has changed. There is no need for another study. Our opinion has not changed.

‘Our cultural heritage is a direct connection to our ancestors. We have been here for thousands of years. These sites provide us with a link to our traditions, our land and our living heritage. They allow us to educate our young ones in their history.’

Unanimous decision

Senior Elder John Roberts and his niece Cindy Roberts. Photo supplied.

A unanimous decision of Elders and Widjabul Wia-bal people was given to the Rous County Council General Manager last Tuesday, December 8th.

The group insisted that Rous abandon plans for the Dunoon Dam.

‘So many of our cultural sites have been destroyed. To destroy more is unacceptable to the traditional owners,’ said Mr Roberts.

‘We are tired of being ‘consulted’ and then ignored. Enough is enough.’

The Widjabul Wia-bal collective insisted that Rous County Council no longer deals with individuals. They said in future Rous must consult with the whole stakeholder group.

Rous have agreed to provide all correspondence between Rous and the Widjabul Wia-bal representatives since the dam was first mooted in 1995.

Barry Roberts, John Roberts’ elder brother, suggested that Rous County Council’s plans for the Dunoon Dam are the same as the Rio Tinto’s actions at the Juukan Cave in Western Australia.

‘We believe that the Australian people will not allow this destruction of our heritage to go ahead,’ he said.

The Widjabul people acknowledged the importance of walking together with the WATER Northern Rivers Alliance to protect the land and develop alternative water options.

Rous pushing on

Rous County Council, meanwhile, have issued a statement saying they will table their plan to future-proof the region’s water supply at their next ordinary meeting, on 16 December 2020.

Channon Gorge, threatened by proposed Dunoon Dam. Photo David Lowe.

The statement said, ‘The combination of solutions set out by the Future Water Project 2060 include:

  • Utilisation of the Marom Creek Water Treatment Plant for the increased use of groundwater from the Alstonville area.
  • Further detailed investigations into the viability of the proposed Dunoon Dam.
  • Ongoing water conservation and demand management.
  • Pioneering investigations into water reuse.

‘Councillors will carefully consider the plan in light of the outcome of a 10-week public exhibition of the Future Water Project 2060. Council acknowledges the community’s concerns and aspirations and greatly appreciates the time invested by those who made a submission.’

Rous have asked people who wish to find out more about the Future Water Project 2060 to please visit www.rous.nsw.gov.au/futurewater.

Dunoon local Jill Hawthorn responded on social media by saying, ‘When the experts say we need back up options for dry times coming – and 30% of our water system should be not rain dependent. This means we need to look seriously at water reuse and solar powered desalination – can you hear your community Rous?

‘91% are not happy with the Dunoon dam option– please demote it as your “preferred” option.’


More stories about the Dunoon Dam

No means no, say traditional owners

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.

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Cartoon of the week – 8 September, 2021

The deadline for the Byron Echo newspaper is noon Friday and letters longer than 200 words may be cut for the paper.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. Shouldn’t ‘ consulted ‘ involve open discussion and face to face communication. Now it’s seemingly been replaced by ‘ informed ‘ . Bureaucrats & decision makers hiding behind their computer screens. Step outside and face the music of the consensus

  2. Had this case been heard at the international criminal court, there wouldn’t be so many river-killing main channel dams being built today, especial egregious being the plethora of Chinese hydro dams across the world. In this case, the traditional owners were not even consulted by the company building the dam…mavis died not long after the dam was built, no doubt of a broken heart:
    http://worldatpolarity.blogspot.com/2018/07/paradise-dam-case-of-ecocide.html

  3. With the shame of Juukan Caves hanging over our nation, we can’t allow obliteration of Heritage so important to Widjabul Wia-bal people. There are so many smart water options now that will better ensure water security. There is a new opportunity to create a drought-resilient system that includes some water sources that don’t depend on rain, such as purified recycled water, green-powered desalination, or that fantastic model for 100% Roof Water Harvesting they did in new developments in Warrnambool. This is worthy of investigation for those new housing developments at Ballina.

  4. I give my whole-hearted and respectful support to the Widjabul Wia-bul people on this. Thank you for standing strong for this beautiful Country. Rous Country Council – you must listen to this clear, united voice, and the voices of all of us who support this stance. Enough destruction of Culture and Country.

  5. It is so good to see the Traditional Owners speaking out on this issue. Rous County Council needs to take this seriously and stop pressuring them to undergo more “consultation” when they have been saying NO so clearly for so many years.

  6. No to the dam!!! Your not destroying more of the northern rivers water ways for your own greedy profit! NO! NO! NO! EVERY HOUSE SHOULD BE BUILD WITH OR SUPPLIED WITH WATER TANKS!
    THIS IS A NOT A DEBATE A QUESTION OR OTHER!
    OR BUILD THE DAMS AT LISMORE CEMETARY AND ALL THE CEMETERIES IN THE LOCAL AREA WE WILL BE DOING STUDIES IN TO BUILDING DAMS AT LOCAL CEMETERIES! EVERY SINGLE CEMETERY IN AUSTRALIA IS MUCH LESS IMPORTANT THAN ANY ABORIGINAL BURIAL GROUND! ALMOST INSIGNIFICANT!
    ALSO NOT A DEBAT, FACT!
    FURTHER MORE THE CONSTANT HARRASSMENT BY ROUS WATER UPON THESE PEOPLE MEANS ROUS WORKERS SHOULD BE JAILED FOR CONSISTANT CONSTANT HARRASSMEN BY WAY OF IGNORANCE AND TOTAL LACK OF RESPECT FOR ABORIGINAL PEOPLE AND COUNTRY.

  7. Thanks Widjabul-Wia-bal Elders and community for speaking out about cultural heritage again and again. Rous Councillors, and all of us living in the beautiful Northern Rivers, the time has come to listen, we have been living on land that was originally stolen. There’s only 1% of Big Scrub left, and it is threatened along with significant cultural heritage in the Channon Gorge by the proposed Dam option. Rous Water, give priority to your local communities, not the State. We can rise to a challenge if given the right incentives for water alternatives, let’s be an example for rural Aus. in innovative water solutions.

    • Thank you to the elders who are saying no you have my wholehearted support in this decision

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