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.’
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.
‘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.
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.
‘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.
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