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October 16, 2021

Ballina Council decision not to sell Marom Creek Water Treatment Plant to cost North Coast households

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Rous County Council Chair and Ballina Councillor Keith Williams. Photo David Lowe.

Ballina Shire Councillor and Chair of Rous County Council, Keith Williams, says that the decision by Ballina Shire Council not to sell the Marom Creek Water Treatment Plant to Rous County Council (RCC) will cost Ballina ratepayers more than $600 per household and an additional $200 per household across the region.

Cr Williams has criticised a decision saying that it is ‘100 per cent petty politics’.

Ballina Council considered the proposed transfer of the Marom Creek Water Treatment Plant to Rous County Council at its last Council meeting. The elected Council rejected the recommendation from staff at both Ballina Council and RCC to support the transfer.

Cr Williams said RCC had offered to pay Ballina for the written down value of the plant estimated at $5.5 million, and the transfer would save Ballina a further $3.5 million in a planned upgrade of the plant that aims to improve water quality but produces no additional water.

‘Rous plans a much larger upgrade to the plant, to cease use of existing bores in the Alstonville aquifer and to connect the plant to replacement groundwater bores that were some 200m deeper and in the sandy Clarence-Moreton Basin that sits underneath the Alstonville Plateau,’ said Cr Williams.

Cr Williams said RCC would proceed with its agreed contingency plans, which require the purchase of land on the private market suitable to house a new treatment plant connected to the proposed bores.

‘This will cost substantially more than the Marom Creek proposal and that additional cost will have to be born by Rous customers across the region.,’ he explained.

‘An additional cost of $10 million across the 50,000 households in the RCC network is a $200 slap in the face to every town water customer in the region.

‘The proposed use of the Marom Creek site connected to much deeper bores was the most cost effective outcome after more than seven years testing and research that followed the adoption of Groundwater as the preferred option in the Future Water Strategy in 2014. All of these additional water supply projects have long lead times.

‘The irresponsible actions of the Ballina Councillors trying to promote an atmosphere of chaos are focussed solely on the next local government elections due in December. Some even claim that they are trying to save the Alstonville aquifer, when they are doing the exact opposite.

‘There are existing public water supply bores in the shallow Alstonville aquifers. They need to be removed. Deeper bores are also extra insurance against climate change, being much less effected by seasonal rainfall patterns.

 

‘The RCC plan is the most cost effective option for households in Ballina and across the region to supply the additional water needed to deal with population growth over the next decade.

‘Voters need to be aware that these Councillors are playing politics with your wallet, not theirs,’ said Cr Williams.


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18 COMMENTS

  1. Good Keith, calling out these councillors. Petty politics by these elected representatives who will boast about being better managers. They only see the elections coming up and fail at long term managing. These are the so called independent councillors who are really lib/ NATs. Look at their backflip on social housing.

  2. Rous seems to be lost and confused and it is perhaps appropriate for cooler heads to take control so that Rous doesn’t repeat the events of the 2000’s when they spent $40million to build the Wilson’s River scheme which is massively underused and has provided little improvement to water security, yet Rous (i.e. ratepayers) still owe $25million in debt for that scheme.

    There is very low confidence in Rous’s cost estimates. The cost estimate for Rous’s original preferred option had $20million in negative costs included. There is no reason to have negative costs in the estimate and it was clearly a major error. The error wasn’t found or corrected which greatly reduces confidence that Rous’s cost estimates are correct.

    The option that Rous now prefers wasn’t even costed in Rous’s report to their July 2021 meeting, despite cost estimates being provided for nine separate options.

    With these major errors/omissions it is difficult to compare costs.

    If Rous makes another major ‘misstep’ and large costs are incurred without improvements to water security, rate payers will be forced to pay hundreds of dollars extra a year for little or no benefit.

    It looks like ratepayers should expect a big increase in their water charges (i.e. more than the doubling in water charges Rous has proposed for the next 10 years).

  3. I would be interested to hear from councillors who voted down this proposal as to why they voted this way, seems like petty politics and a massive own goal which will be paid for by water users across the region.

  4. I would be interested to hear from those councillors who voted down this proposal how they justify voting this way, I’m sure all the ratepayers (voters) who will pay for this decision will be just as interested

  5. Keith Williams has a serious conflict of interest in this, given the two hats he wears. He probably should butt out before someone goes to ICAC

      • Really? They are required to make decisions with such clear conflicts of interest? No wonder people are disgusted with how we are governed

        • Yes really Shane. How is it a conflict of interest?
          Four councils represented each by two of their councillors….. as it always has been. So poor system now when you don’t like their decisions, or always poor system historically.

  6. I was invited to provide a response but it wasn’t printed so here it is.
    Cr Williams, has criticised a decision that he says is 100% petty politics?

    What Keith Williams is now saying is breath taking, but predictable, attempting to portray himself to be the victim of politically motivated scenarios at every opportunity going forward.

    The irony of course starts with the party-political directives that he and the other Rous Councillors have taken when they voted to remove the Dam from the list of options. A No Dam policy is their party politics.

    When and where it suits his narrative, I expect Keith Williams to continue to grasp at straws, pointing the finger at everything political from here on out .

    Ballina ratepayers more than $600 per household and an additional $200 per household across the region. Do you agree?

    The reality for the community is these costs are just the beginning of Keith Williams, Cate Coorey, Basil Cameron, Vanessa Ekins, and Darlene Cooks plans that are going to cost the regional community hundreds upon hundreds of millions of dollars more than the alternatives . These are well reported in the Rous documentation, but this has been of no concern whatsoever to these councillors. Additionally, there are all the associated social and environmental impacts of their choices going forward.

    Now that the first consequences of their actions are starting to appear suddenly Keith Williams is anxious about costs when up until now it was never once part of his considerations.
    Ground water from aquifers cost double that of the Dam supply.
    Desalination two and a half times and
    Recycled sewerage water at least 3 times the cost.
    There is a very, very long list of issues that go with those solutions that were ignored by the Councillors from Byron, Lismore, and Keith Williams in their decision-making process. Recently retired Byron Mayor and Rous Councillor Simon Richardson approached the issue to remove the Dam from the options in the December 2020 Rous meeting stating on the public record “sometimes I feel like we are burning the bridges behind us so there is no retreat (to the Dam option)..”

    So, I guess it is what it is, until something changes.

    Then again, if you think this price increase is significant, the next step will be the establishment of the Tyagarah bore field directly next to the groundwater dependent ecosystems of the Tyagarah Nature Reserve and literally within a stone’s throw of the Simpsons Creek estuary. This is naturally part of the Byron Marine Park Sanctuary Zone.

    The Tyagarah Bore field will cost more than double what Woodburn bore field is going to cost. There are already huge environmental concerns associated with both Stage 1 & 2 of this Tyagarah project which does nothing but add more risk to the regional water security.

    This increase in cost and reduction in water security is part and parcel of the current direction these Councillors have chosen to take.

    They have ignored the largest public consultation result in Rous’s history; a result with over 275 times the number of participants than the previous Rous IWCM public consultation period in 2014 when the Dam was still on the list of options to be fully investigated. Of the 13,729 respondents in 2021, a full 85%, 11,207 responses, were precisely against what Keith Williams is now promoting.

    What was the reason you chose to vote against the sale?

    The reason I voted against the sale was because I am representing the staggering number of citizens from Alstonville and Wollongbar and the equally unbelievable number of citizens in the rural areas right across the Alstonville Plateau who do not want the Alstonville aquifer touched as a permanent water supply.

    This response from the community during the public consultation period could not be clearer and I also do not believe that the regional groundwater options are a good outcome as a permanent water supply going forward.

    • Cr Cadwallader, there are too many items here to dispute but one really stands out. Why do people on the Alstonville plateau believe that their aquifer is at risk? Because you have deliberately misinformed them and you continue to do so shamelessly. Being a Rous councillor, you must know that Rous is planning to pull out of the Alstonville aquifer, dam or no dam. The Alstonville aquifer is a non-issue that you have tried to beat up. This makes it hard to trust anything that you say.

      The cost of the dam can be reduced using some shifty maths. If you buy a big expensive car that could last for 40 years and you divide the initial cost by 40 then you can claim that it is pretty cheap on an annual basis. However the upfront cost is large. Same with the dam. The upfront cost is enormous, and likely to blow out by 50%. It would place a large burden on current ratepayers for water for people who are not even born yet. Diverse, scalable options are the safer way to go, especially if the developers have to pay for them, not the community at large.

      I wouldn’t go on too much about the petition signatures collected by you and others. The petition form did not allow those who signed to add their reasons. This is in contravention of the Rous requirement for submissions to state their reasons. All the people who signed were misinformed (eg about the Alstonville aquifer) and some were also deceived and pressured so their real value is highly dubious.

      • When is a petition not a petition when I don’t agree with it, I signed the petition for no csg and I signed the petition for a dam to be built i am sure you took the no csg petition seriously and didn’t scrutinise it over is textual format and please theres nothing wrong with creating infrastructure for people not born yet the
        I wasn’t born when dunnoon dam was created
        But I have enjoyed water security my entire life because of the people that came before additionally private water tanks are private not a community source of water which is what dams are all about providing water for the community even those that cant afford to store there own personal supply.

    • Keith, I did not know the system was set up to require conflict of interest of this type. It is the system of governance that is slurred in my view

    • Hi Sharon, try as we might, we don’t ‘man’ the comments moderation 24/7.
      Your response just hadn’t been seen until now.
      (actually, I was on my late lunch break at 2pm because I was trying to chew a sandwich AND write up Berejikilan’s resignation at the same time)

  7. No Shane, wrong again, you did slur Keith Williams, three strikes and you are out, maybe you should take the advice about improving.

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