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Byron Shire
June 14, 2024

Independent councillor brings Dunoon Dam into Ballina mayoral campaign

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Ballina Deputy Mayor Sharon Cadwallader. Photo David Lowe.

‘I think I’ve done my apprenticeship,’ independent Ballina Shire Councillor Sharon Cadwallader says after seventeen years in the role and announcing her intention to run for mayor.

‘I stand on my experience, my apprenticeship, honesty, integrity and hard work,’ Cr Cadwallader continues, ‘people who know me know me well for that’.

The East Ballina-based civil celebrant, company director and member of ‘a plethora of committees’ has twice run for mayor and says when it comes to government, ‘the feds get all the money, the state gets all the power and local government gets all the problems’.

Councillor calls for Royal Commission into ‘housing crisis’

‘Take the coastline, for example,’ she says, ‘Crown Lands wants to hand coastal management back to the council but we can’t afford it’.

‘We need a national approach.’

Cr Cadwallader says the same can be said about housing affordability and availability.

‘I’d like to support a study by the University of NSW on having a royal commission into the housing crisis,’ Cr Cadwallader told The Echo on Wednesday, ‘ all our local providers are stretched to their armpits and businesses will tell you they can’t get staff due to a lack of affordability and availability’.

The independent councillor is moving for the council to support a royal commission in the next ordinary meeting.

Proposed Dunoon Dam, now scrapped. Rous County Council.

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Cr Cadwallader says one of her other key concerns as a mayoral candidate is the defeated proposal for a new dam in Dunoon.

‘I think something as basic as a water supply is so important,’ she says, ‘that’s our future, water is life’.

Cr Cadwallader says ‘all the technical advice over the last 25 years’ suggests Dunoon Dam is the ‘cheapest, most cost effective and safest’ water security option for the region and that more studies need to be done to show cultural significance.

‘Groundwater is not the cheapest or safest,’ she says, ‘when the pumps start up the farmers have to buy in water’.

One of the proposals in the Rous County Council Future Water Plan 2060 is to source groundwater from Tyagarah and/or Alstonville.

But Cr Cadwallader says Alstonville is surrounded by macadamia orchards and that there is a risk of contamination.

‘It costs around $39 million to clean the water,’ she says.

‘Desalination is ridiculous,’ Cr Cadwallader continues, ‘plant membranes have to be replaced constantly and desalination plants are rusting out all over the world’.

‘Toilet-to-tap water won’t get social licence,’ she says, ‘and will probably only get about 30% of the water’.

‘We need a secure water strategy moving to 2060 because we are going to run out of water by 2024 and the state government won’t let that happen, they’ll intervene,’ she says.

Cr Cadwallader denied recent comments on articles suggesting she was a member of The Nationals, saying she didn’t belong to any political party.


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7 COMMENTS

  1. if water is so important to Cr Cadwallader learn how to use it more wisely or have a Dam built in your own shire .. dont use our home ( dunoon and channon residents home ) as a venue to fight to be elected for mayor in ballina !!!!

  2. Mrs Nicholson I note your comments that I have shot myself in the foot and insulted people at every level. I respectfully ask you to get the facts right before publicly denigrating me . I will not take aim at you but stick to the issue.
    Fact 1 You fail to mention that the petitions that generated over 10,000 responses from the recent public exhibition that those petitions circulating stated that they do not support aquifers, desalination, toilet to tap recycled water as “A PERMANENT WATER SUPPLY FOR OUR REGION.” And also that they do not support the land being sold off or gifted, prior to securing a clean, cost effective alternative water source. Because our water supply can only be assured until 2024 other water sources will need to be brought on line until ( if proved viable) the Dunoon Dam was built. Of course I voted to secure water from alternate sources until the future water supply was secured but never as a permanent solution. The axing of the Dunoon Dam from the plan, taking all options off the agenda, costing our communities in excess of $200,00 to re exhibit the plan has been a very expensive exercise but compared to the exhibition last year that generated 1298 responses with 56% of those opposed to aquifer water I am pleased that our communities have had a chance to have their say on such a critical issue. Yes it is simple – Water is life and everyone and every living thing needs it!

  3. “when it comes to government, ‘the feds get all the money, the state gets all the power and local government gets all the problems’.” Truer words were never spoken.
    Currently local government is not even recognised in the Australian constitution.
    And at last a candidate sans barragaphobia.

  4. The individual might not be a card-carrying member of the National Party, but she sure sings from the same song sheet. Support for big infrastructure projects regardless of utility – not to mention disregard for environmental impact or indigenous heritage.
    Ballina residents should be warned that if the Water Industry gets its way, they will be faced with increased water bills. They will in effect be subsidising future growth in their Shire.

  5. Sharon Cadwallader is right. It was very rude of me to say that she has shot herself in the foot and I apologise. That was close to name-calling which is never acceptable.

    If I understand it correctly, Cr Cadwallader would allow the use of alternative water sources as temporary measures until the Dunoon Dam could be brought on line to apparently solve all the problems. That would leave us with Rocky Creek Dam, Emigrant Creek Dam, the Wilson River Source and the Dunoon Dam – in other words 100% rainfall-dependent sources of water.

    Water experts around Australia and the world say that reducing vulnerability to worsening drought means increasing the use of alternative sources. Ideally we should have at least 50% of our water independent of rainfall, eg from deep groundwater, desal, purified recycled water, rooftop rainwater collection, and urban stormwater harvesting.

    Putting the dam back on the table is the shortest way to take all the options off the table and increase our risk drastically.

    It is also the most expensive for ratepayers. Rous County Council, on the other hand, is proposing the use of many smaller water sources and measures. These are scalable so that each can be made larger as demand increases. This way the costs will be spread out over generations rather than paid for up-front by current residents.

    Finally, the petitions collected by Cr Cadwallader did not once mention the Widjabul Wia-bal people or the destruction of the rainforest in the Channon Gorge. The people who ticked the box were not given a chance to inform themselves on the issue. I get the feeling that Cr Cadwallader has no interest in, or respect for, our First Nations people and their heritage, or for the priceless natural assets which make this region so unique.

  6. Cr Cadwaller has proven herself to be no supporter of the environment, harking the same old calls of days gone by. Dams are very much last century and have no place in this changing climate. We must future -prove ourselves and that means looking at broken systems, not just repeating the same mistakes.
    No where in this debate has Cr Cadwaller even made mention of the fact that this area of the proposed dam contains not only last remaining remnant of rainforest and big scrub and the diverse and very precious wildlife that live within, but also of the local indigenous peoples sacred sites.

  7. “Cr Cadwallader says ‘all the technical advice over the last 25 years’ suggests Dunoon Dam is the ‘cheapest, most cost effective and safest’ water security option for the region and that more studies need to be done to show cultural significance.”

    What rubbish! The only economic evaluations that would support a dam would be poorly conducted ones that under valued old growth big scrub rainforest.

    I was watching someone pressure clean their concrete driveway in Dunoon last week. There is no way Cadwaller could argue that this is an ecomically efficent use of water from Rocky Creek!

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