It’s very clear that the State government’s push for population growth is the main driving force behind the proposed revisit of the Dunoon Dam proposal with Ballina Council mayoral aspirant Sharon Cadwallader its advocate, and Richmond Valley Council Mayor, Robert Mustow, who is also on Rous County Council (RCC), a cheerleader (see The Echo online 23 July 2021).
Yes, climate change will most likely reduce catchment flows and impact water supply for the future given the ‘runaway train’ that climate change is, but population growth has always been the mantra of the major parties in NSW and is the real driving force behind the Dam being put back on the agenda.
If you complain about growth you are accused of being a NIMBY (not in my backyard) or against ‘the future of grandchildren who will never be able to live here’; a specious argument at best but an old sawhorse often cited by proponents for all kinds of inappropriate development.
Before any further money is wasted, yet again, on the Dunoon Dam matter, Rous Council and decision-makers might like to revisit the Discussion Paper, A Region of Villages published in 2001 and supported by local councils and promulgated by the Northern Rivers Regional Strategy Secretariat.
The work of that Secretariat was widely supported by local councils at the time. The paper examined the ‘carrying capacity’ of the land, that is how many people can you stick on Far North Coast land sustainably. It concluded that we were nowhere near the carrying capacity of the land. Richmond Valley Council and others loved that conclusion. Richmond Valley Council has always been a council addicted to growth, pushed by goals set by the State government for local government areas. Still is, as the State government’s handmaiden.
Richmond Valley Council started holding workshops with the local community with keen developer, the late Cr Sullivan, leading the charge. The workshops came to an abrupt halt when it was discovered that there was an error in the ‘carrying capacity’ calculation. A real ‘whoops’ moment. Once corrected it was clear WE’RE ALREADY PAST THE CARRYING CAPACITY OF THE LAND.
Nothing more was heard of the paper and its concepts. The workshops ceased. The keen supporters disappeared into the ether! Deathly silence.
What’s interesting to observe is that when the data supported growth, all those with a develop-and-be-damned mentality wholeheartedly embraced the evidence. But when the evidence didn’t fit their partisan view of the world, the evidence and appropriate actions were abandoned. The push for growth continued. Such is the quality of decision-making in our political world.
We need to revisit the concept of population growth as the Region of Villages Discussion Paper did 20 years ago and ask ‘Do we really want or need a 37 per cent growth in population on the north coast and if so, can the country sustain such growth?
This is a matter which is in our hands. Macquarie Street needs to stop imposing its developer-driven nonsense on us and future generations, and if it wants to be useful – do a proper analysis on the carrying capacity of the land and propose a strategy for the future of the north coast that is not just loudly-trumpeted pages of empty rhetoric and glossy pictures without hard evidence, as is so often the case with government ‘strategies for the future’.
There are limits to growth, and consequences if you ignore them. Take a look at what’s happening in the rest of world, or perhaps parts of the Far North Coast which are already under the yoke of inappropriate development creating new demands for water supply.
The Dunoon Dam, if built, will come at a very substantial cost, and that cost is not just dollars.