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