The development application (DA) by Mount Warning Spring Water Company (DA19/0346) to triple its water extraction and extend operating hours for trucking transport from 4am to 9pm was strongly rejected by the local community.
The water extraction was then reduced to 100 mega litres, a doubling of the extraction, as a result of their own hydrologists report according to Pat Miller, spokesperson for Tweed Water Alliance Inc (TWA).
The Tweed Council staff recommendation was to reject the DA at last nights council meeting, however, an appeal to Councillor Pryce Allsop (Conservative) from the company sought to have a delay of the decision until they could supply further information.
Councillor Katie Milne (Greens) pointed out that they had already had two years to submit information and said that a 60 day extenetion was too long.
It was further highlighted that Council would be going into a caretaker council in August and it might become an election issue.
‘This has been an incredibly fraught process. Make it 30 days. Presumably, they have had this information and to give them another two months seems a bit out of order,’ Cr Milne said to the meeting.
Mayor Chris Cherry (Independent) highlighted the fact that the outcome would have a direct impact on the local community and that 500 people from the community had made submissions on the DA.
‘This DA is about chaining the amenity impacts. Talking about changing the hours of truck operation to 4am to 9pm. It is tripling the truck numbers coming through,’ said Mayor Cherry.
‘Their own hydrologist experts say it would have an impact. They have not been able to demonstrate that this is a sustainable use of this resources. We are only delaying the pain. It has already been two years. The experts are telling us what is correct.’
Tweed Shire Council removed water bottling extraction from the Local Environment Plan (LEP) on 6 March 2020 which means that while the exisiting four water extraction and bottling operations can continue no future ones are likely to be approved.
‘When the water bottling issue started it was not known about in the local communities,’ Councillor Ron Cooper (Independent) told the meeting.
‘But it is now known. Having been through a drought, that was as bad as it was, and then allowing an increase… that will be exploited in a campaign, even at the state level.’
Councillors Allsop and Warren Polglase (Conservative) argued for the allocation of more time saying that it was fair while Councillor James Owen (Liberal) told the meeting he felt it was a difficult decision.
‘I look at recommendations from staff and there is a very long list of reasons not to support this,’ Cr Owen pointed out.
‘There is nothing to say that this is refused that theses people can’t bring back another application in the future… I don’t think what comes back [if we give them more time now] will change the recommendation – but I don’t know. I’m still undecided on this…’
No community benefit
Tweed Water Alliance In spokesperson told The Echo that they had spoken during public access and highlighted that the operation doesn’t bring a single cent back to the community and in fact have to pay to maintain the roads for the large trucks to use safely.
‘4am to 9pm? Who do they think they are?’ said TWA spokesperson Mr Miller.
‘We consider this a theft of a resource [water] from the community for personal profit. We’ve opposed from the start selling off a public asset for personal profit,’ he said.
‘I would like toe remind Councillors Allsop and Polglase that they voted for the removal of water extraction and bottling from the LEP in March 2020; so why did they want to delay the decision?’
When the decision went to the vote to reject the DA crunch time came for Councillor Owen and he supported the staff recommendation of refusal along with councillors Cooper, Cheery, and Milne.
Mr Miller told The Echo that while the DA had been rejected water extraction will remain an election issue for the upcoming September elections.
‘We will be asking all candidates about their position on water extraction,’ he said.