Duncan Dey, Main Arm
Councillors last week adopted a Residential Strategy that will convert various bits of the Shire to urban. Urban life involves having services provided to the property boundary (water and sewer services in particular). The urban user pays to connect and to consume.
Rural life involves providing those services yourself. You tap into water off your roof, out of a stream or out of the ground. You dispose of sewage within the property boundary. You need a bigger property and that puts neighbours further away (one of the great benefits of rural life).
In our Shire, the water that flows out of urban taps comes from distant waterways. For Mullumbimby, that waterway is Wilsons Creek. In dry seasons water ceases to flow over the weir at Lavertys Gap (as it has now for the third year in a row). Being an old water ‘extraction’ licence, there is no requirement for the weir to transmit water downstream.
Luckily there is some accidental leakage. Were the licence to be updated and some environmental flow actively sent past the weir, the system’s capacity to supply would be less.
When Lavertys Gap can’t supply enough water, an ‘emergency’ connection to the Rous system is activated and water extracted from Rocky Creek Dam (RCD) is supplied instead.
RCD also has no environmental flow requirement and often ceases to overflow.
Council’s Residential Strategy avoids discussing the utilities needed to sustain the urban lifestyle it ordains. Councillors think the same: bring people in and we’ll work out the details later.
In the case of water supply, the details are known: Rous will build a new dam to supply future water needs. The Strategy’s commitment to urban land thus includes a commitment to that new dam. The two commitments should have been considered together. A decent Strategy would have included plans for an acceptable water supply system (ie one not dependent on a new dam).
There is a parallel story for sewage – a decent Strategy would have resolved that. And it would also tell us how transport will be provided to the new suburbs, rather than just putting more vehicles down Ewingsdale Road.