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Byron Shire
September 26, 2021

Independent councillor to represent Byron’s water security

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Mia Armitage

Independent Byron Shire Councillor Cate Coorey is a new member of the Rous County Council . Photo David Hancock

Independent Byron Shire Councillor Cate Coorey says she’s excited to have won the council’s vote for a new representative on the Rous Country Council.

Her position was announced at last week’s extraordinary council meeting after councillors had voted for an interim mayor and deputy mayor.

The Rous County Council is responsible for three important environmental concerns on the Northern Rivers: bulk water supply to residents and businesses in the four local government areas represented; flood mitigation; and weed biosecurity.

Cr Coorey is known for her interest in environmental sustainability, having introduced the Byron Shire Council’s Water Sensitive Urban Design Policy [WSUDP) earlier in the current council term and more recently successfully moving for the council to declare a climate emergency, as well as development of an action plan to respond to it.

The independent councillor described the WSUDP as taking ‘a more circular and environmentally sensitive approach to how water is managed and integrated into planning and infrastructure decisions’.

Most people living on the Northern Rivers rely on Rous

Most bulk water on the Northern Rivers comes from the Rocky Creek Dam in the hinterland, although there are four areas in the region that are excluded from the service: Mullumbimby, Nimbin, Wardell and some land west of Coraki.

Anyone living off-grid in terms of water supply is also excluded from the service unless they pay for water to be delivered during times of drought – that water would generally come from Rocky Creek Dam, or from supplies in the Tweed Shire.

Three and a half years of water security left on the Northern Rivers

The Rous County Council has made headlines in local regional news over the past year or so over its controversial proposition for a new dam to be built in Dunoon, not far from the Rocky Creek Dam.

So far, that proposal has been rejected by many in the community and by councillors but there are some still lobbying for the project to go ahead.

The council’s latest move has been to put a Future Water Project 2060 document on public display, with submissions accepted until 28 May.

The council says population growth forecasts for the Northern Rivers indicate a 37% increase in drinking water demand by 2060 while climate forecasts predict a reduction in available surface water of 22% by 2060.

Predictions based on current population growth reportedly suggest water demand in the region will exceed reliable supply by 2024.

Dunoon Dam still on offer

The FWP 2020 includes five options for addressing the issue: the Dunoon Dam; connection to the Marom Creek water treatment plant south-west of Alstonville, with or without local groundwater supplies; groundwater harvesting from Woodburn, Tyagarah, Newrybar and Alstonville; desalination; and treated wastewater.

Reports on each of the options are available via the Rous County Council website.

Who’s in charge of the water?

The Rous County Council includes two representatives from each member council: the Ballina Shire Council, Lismore City Council and Richmond Valley Council as well as the Byron Shire Council.

Keith Williams is the council chair and the deputy chair is Sharon Cadwallader, with both members representing the Ballina Shire Council and the positions up for re-election in October.

The positions of chair and deputy are renewed each year but councillors retain membership for four years.

Other members of the Rous County Council are:

Darlene Cook (Lismore City Council)

Vanessa Ekins (Lismore City Council)

Sandra Humphrys (Richmond Valley Council)

Robert Mustow (Richmond Valley Council)

Basil Cameron (Byron Shire Council).

Cr Coorey is taking over from Simon Richardson, former Byron Mayor, and beat fellow independent councillor and new mayor Michael Lyon and Greens Deputy Mayor Sarah Ndiaye for the position.

The independent councillor said she’d previously worked with well-known former Byron Shire marine biologist and contributor to The Echo, Dr Mary Gardner, via the Water Places project and the work had been ‘eye opening’.

‘I have a good understanding of how an entire catchment works on every level,’ Cr Coorey said, ‘from the preservation of biodiversity to drinking, how we manage water is so important in the shire and the region’.

‘What happens in the next few decades with water is so important and I am committed to making the best contribution I can’.

Cr Coorey wouldn’t confirm to The Echo her intention or otherwise to contest again for a seat on the Byron Shire Council in September’s local government elections but her enthusiasm for her new position on the Rous County Council sends a strong signal in favour of running.

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  1. Despite opposition the Dunoon Dam is off the agenda. stop trying to create an issue and allow the NATs pushing this air time!

  2. Let’s be thankful for a great representative on the Rous County Council. There is no such thing as “off the agenda”.


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