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November 27, 2022

Ballina mayor hopeful and Dunoon Dam advocate loses bid for new water science team

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Independent Ballina Shire Councillor Sharon Cadwallader has failed to gain majority council support for an independent water research team in the region.

Cr Cadwallader said earlier this year she’d be running for mayor in the next local government elections and that water security, particularly the dumped Dunoon Dam proposal, would be one of her key campaign issues.

The independent councillor was also deputy chair of the Rous County Council, which is responsible for water services to much of the Northern Rivers including most people in the Ballina, Byron, Richmond Valley and Lismore local government areas.

Most town water comes from the Rocky Creek Dam but the Rous County Council said last year demand was expected to outstrip supply by 2024.

Ballina Deputy Mayor Sharon Cadwallader. Photo David Lowe.

Rous County Council deputy chair sceptical of groundwater feasability

Cr Cadwallader expressed disgust when the Rous County Council voted against reconsidering a new dam in Dunoon, saying the decision showed democracy was dead given a petition of more than 10,000 signatures in support of the proposal.

More recently, the independent councillor tried to convince her fellow Ballina Shire councillors of the need for a new independent scientific research organisation.

The team would ‘examine all aspects relating to water’ in the Richmond/Wilsons River catchment area including security, quality, flood mitigation and river health –areas the Rous County Council was already responsible for overseeing.

But Cr Cadwallader was clearly dissatisfied with the Rous County Council’s approach to future water security.

‘Rous County Council has now proceeded with the adopted option of groundwater in order to meet the 2024 deadline,’ Cr Cadwallader wrote in her notice of motion in late August.

‘Alstonville residents are being notified of the impending water quality testing from the Clarence Moreton Basin,’ she wrote, adding that ‘no data exists as to the quality or volume of water in that basin it remains an unknown’.

Cr Cadwallader said earlier tests indicated poor quality water in the basin.

‘No approvals for added permanent extraction from the Alstonville aquifers have been submitted to the regulator as water extraction is still in the testing phase,’ she said.

Cr Cadwallader said she wanted the new team to investigate ‘potential economic development opportunities and other benefits that would flow’ from their research.

Cr Eoin Johnston was the only Ballina Shire councillor to support the proposal, which suggested writing to state parliamentarians ‘highlighting the need’ for the new science team.

Cr Nathan Willis was absent.

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  1. A mate who died a few years back (RIP Jim) was one of Australia’s founding hydrogeologists (groundwater engineers). He said, :p, that what he did was, in some ways, akin to witchcraft or sorcery. What he went onto explain, and this is a bloke who engineered many groundwater supplies for towns in Australia and overseas, was because it’s very difficult to tell how aquifers behave eg you might get a good yield at 30m and a poorer yield at 32m from a different source. The only way to tell is by doing lots of investigation, mostly drilling. This provides you with evidence (science) to base water supply engineering proposals from.
    Cr Cadwallader, who claims nearly 20 years experience on Rous Water (so what would she know), regardless of her political tack, is just asking for that. Evidence.

  2. I am surprised that Cr Cadwallader has not investigated the cheapest and quickest way to secure the most water: multiple water efficiencies. Prof Stuart White, a consultant to Rous County Council, produced a voluminous report in 1997 called the Rous Regional Water Efficiency Program. It has never been implemented or evaluated. He has also produced in 2021 the Rous Sustainable Water Program, which has not been evaluated. He maintains that we can avoid a dam and use of groundwater by implementing targeted water efficiencies on a large scale.

    Surely in such an atmosphere of hostility about Dunoon Dam (DuD) and the use of groundwater, desal and water recycling, Cr Cadwallader would be looking for effective solutions that bring the community together. Unless of course she wants to foster social division because it makes for a good polarising political campaign.


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