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Byron Shire
February 9, 2023

Ballina’s Cr Cadwallader won’t let Dunoon Dam go

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Ballina Deputy Mayor and Rous County Cr Sharon Cadwallader. Photo David Lowe.

The Dunoon Dam made an unscheduled appearance late in the last Ballina Shire Council meeting, on the back of a motion put forward by Cr Phillip Meehan and seconded by Cr Sharon Cadwallader.

Cr Meehan said he had growing concerns about Rous County Council’s plan to purchase the Marom Creek Water Treatment Plant and the associated water licences from Ballina as part of the Future Water Strategy. He also said he was alarmed about Rous’s plans for the Alstonville aquifers.

‘This is another example of water mining except the water’s not being put into bottles,’ he said. ‘But there’s a whole lot of public concern about it… We actually need to consider whether we want to move ahead with this or not.’

Deputy Mayor’s view

Cr Sharon Cadwallader went on to say, ‘We’re in this unfortunate position because of that decision that was overturned last December [to abandon the Dunoon Dam]…

‘We met yesterday for a workshop where the consultant presented the findings of the exhibition period, which I’m not at liberty to speak about because until it’s reported publicly. What I can say, though, is that there were 13,729 submissions received, and over 10,000 of those submissions wanted the Dunoon Dam back on the agenda.

‘There’s an extraordinary meeting on the 21st of July, and that’s when the decision will be made on the Future Water Strategy,’ said Cr Cadwallader.

‘That deeper aquifer, the water there is a very poor quality… It will cost a humongous amount of money to be able to turn it into potable water.’

Cr Jeff Johnson speaks about the Dunoon Dam in Lennox Head. Photo David Lowe.

A little later in the debate, Cr Jeff Johnson questioned the way pro-dam sentiment was being whipped up in the community.

‘We’ve seen Cr Cadwallader talking about farmers and deep aquifers and submissions and all this sort of stuff in relation to the future water strategy,’ he said.

‘I was at Primex recently and they had a stall there with people pushing this petition, harassing people to sign and saying, “your rates will go up” and “support the dam”. Cr Cadwallader was going on about submissions and deep aquifers and farmers’ concerns.

‘I just see this as a setup, and it’s the wrong time to be doing it,’ said Cr Johnson.

Rous Chair’s view

Rous Chair and Ballina Cr Keith Williams was not able to be present at the last Ballina Council meeting to respond to Cr Cadwallader’s comments in person, but he has since expressed his frustration and disappointment at what he calls ‘the continued campaign of disinformation being waged by Cr Cadwallader and other National Party aligned councillors’.

Cr Williams told The Echo, ‘I am greatly concerned that the petition collected by the councillor seeks to sabotage the long agreed plans to use groundwater to meet our need for additional water in 2024 to cope with the current rate of population growth.

No dam? Photo David Lowe.

‘By rejecting every form of water supply other than a dam, the petitioners would leave our community dangerously exposed to another drought before the end of this decade,’ he said.

‘In the Future Water Strategy adopted by Rous in 2014, groundwater was identified as the preferred option and since then Rous has been undertaking drilling tests and other research to identify the most viable schemes.

‘Further development work has then occurred on the most cost effective supply option for 2024, which are bores deep under the Alstonville Plateau linked to an upgraded treatment plant at Marom Creek,’ he said.

Underground water

Cr Keith Williams went on to say, ‘NSW Water have recently confirmed that these bores are so deep, they are no longer in the fractured basalt of the Alstonville Aquifer and will be assessed as new applications for the much larger Clarence-Morteon sand aquifer beneath. This is important information for those concerned about the Alstonville Aquifer.

‘Development of these new bores would mean that existing Rous owned bores in the Alstonville Aquifer that do impact on farmers in dry times would be decommissioned,’ he said.

‘What should be seen as a win for farmers on the Plateau was dismissed by Cr Cadwallader, who again misled council by claiming the water was too salty. No such test results exist.

Rous Chair and Ballina Cr Keith Williams. Photo David Lowe.

‘While there remains a risk in any sand aquifer of salt intrusion, none has been identified in the sampling to date.

‘It seems odd to me that the National Party would oppose a development that would provide long term water security benefits to farmers,’ said Cr Williams.

‘But it seems such is their ideological commitment to dams and their desire to use this as a local government election springboard in September, that they are willing to mislead farmers, the community of Alstonville and the broader Northern Rivers with a “Trumped-up” scare campaign.

‘Whatever the longer term solutions adopted, be it recycled water, desalination, a dam or more groundwater, to secure no additional water by 2024 represents the greatest threat to water security in our region. We must not allow partisan political posturing to put our community at risk,’ concluded Cr Williams.

You can find out more about the Future Water Project 2060 here.

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  1. Councillor Cadwallader and others have sought to create division over water supply in our area. In this regard she and her political supporters have had some success. Causing division though, doesn’t deliver sustainable resilient water supplies for our future, and it does damage to our regional image which is so important for tourism.
    A dam remains a high risk “all-eggs-in-one basket” proposition, suited perhaps to last century thinking, but not fit-for purpose any more.
    The least that Cr. Cadwallader could do for NAIDOC week is to heed the Widjabul Wia-bal elders who consistently have said a resounding NO to the destruction of their heritage. Why doesn’t she respect them and listen?

  2. Seems to me the nationals don’t won’t water metering on the bores already existing on Alstonville plateau as it will show the current farm bores are over exploiting the upper aquifer. Typical nationals approach to water management.

  3. The report “Groundwater numerical modelling for the Clarence-Moreton bioregion” p34 shows the six layers in the Clarence-Moreton groundwater system. Two layers (Layer 3 & 5) are aquitards (i.e. no yield). Layer 2 has a yield of “about 0.3L/s” and Layer 4 has a yield of “less than 1L/s”. Layer 6 is the Walloon Coal seam which has variable yield and Layer 1 contains the Alstonville basalt.

    If the published report is correct, it is hard to see where Rous is going to get 33L/s from one new deep bore at Converys Lane.

    If the water in the new deep bore is salty as claimed are Rous going to build a desal plant at Marom Creek, and to where will the brine from the desal plant be disposed of?

    Rous apparently spent millions on these investigations and the conclusion of the reports is that there may be some bore water at Alstonville, Newrybar, Woodburn and Tyagarah but they don’t know how much water is available or what the water quality will be. Rous didn’t even know that the proposed Converys Lane bore was in a different aquifer to the current bore and therefore the licence cannot be transferred as they claimed.

    Alstonville looks like it won’t provide much new water, and the quality of that water may be very poor, requiring very expensive treatment. Hopefully they will be luckier at the other sites.

    The cost of these bores is getting higher and higher, and confidence that the claimed water yield is available hasn’t increased.

    The report “Groundwater numerical modelling for the Clarence-Moreton bioregion” is at https://www.bioregionalassessments.gov.au/sites/default/files/ba-clm-clm-262-gwmodelling-20170331.pdf

  4. Councillor Cadwallader seems to have shot herself in the foot.
    The signatures on Cadwallader’s petition and submissions demanded just one solution to the water problem – a new dam. The other options were explicitly excluded.
    This doesn’t sound much like the “all options on the table” that I kept hearing about from her. It is doubly difficult to understand when she has voted in the past for two of those same options – underground water and re-use. In fact both of those have been in operation for years.
    By pushing such a simplistic solution, Cadwallader insults people at every level, starting with the Water Minister, Melinda Pavey. Numerous experts, including the authors of the Far North Coast Regional Water Strategy, the heads of the Water Department in DPIE, the Rous planners, water engineers, recycling specialists and groundwater investigators will all be wondering whether she has ever been paying attention.
    Reducing complex issues to Trumpian simplicity might be her election strategy but it is not a pathway to solving a critical problem for our region.

  5. Catwallader is on the election trail …trying to get herself noticed and making contention
    Over an issue that needs to be b put to bed .no one in our area ( iam a dunoon resident ) wants or needs the Dam .
    If Catwallader is so bent on a Dam then build it in Ballina …let us see how well that is recieved !!!

  6. Cadwallender’s political career is all she is concerned with. She should be highly embarassed about that petition (NOT submissions) which lays bare her concern for her own political aspirations & total lack of concern for the region’s water security.

  7. The fact that company that would build, own and operate the dam, (Rous) aren’t interested in doing so, says a lot to me. Cadwallader is blowing a lot of hot air. They’ve moved on, she should too.

  8. Maybe if Ballina Shire Council weren’t perpetually rubber stamping mega sub divisions there wouldn’t be such a concern about water.

    The only reason there’s a concern about water is because the council have allowed an ever increasing number of ugly sub divisions to blight what was once a beautiful landscape.

    The councils plan is to subdivide their way into an infrastructure crisis then push through even more unwanted development on the grounds that it’s all desperately needed.

    Having watched several auctions in the Lennox area it’s clear that the region is being chopped up in order to provide homes for the exodus from Australia’s cities.


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