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June 2, 2023

Cadwallader determined to win support for new water science team as part of Dunoon Dam campaign

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Ballina Shire Councillor Sharon Cadwallader. Photo David Lowe.

Independent Ballina Shire Councillor and Rous County Council Deputy Chair Sharon Cadwallader is again pushing for an independent water research team as part of her Dunoon Dam campaign.

Cr Cadwallader has taken advantage of a local government rule allowing councillors to reintroduce a failed motion without having to wait three months if they have the signed support of at least two other councillors.

Cr Eoin Johnston was the only Ballina Shire councillor to support the proposal last month but since then Cr Stephen McCarthy appears to have changed his mind in favour of the motion, given his name is one of Cr Cadwallader’s supporting signatures for the special rule employed this month.

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Ballina Mayor David Wright is known to change his mind on council proposals at the last minute. Photo David Lowe.

Cr Nathan Willis was absent from the August ordinary meeting but even if he had been present and voted yes, the motion would still have been lost, since seven of the nine present councillors voted against it.

Taking into account Cr McCarthy’s apparent subsequent swing and allowing for the possibility that Cr Willis could vote in support of Cr Cadwallader on Thursday, the motion would seem to still be doomed at a logical predicted six-four result.

But Ballina Shire Mayor David Wright is known to have changed his mind at the last minute on significant proposals before, such as last month’s affordable housing project proposal for the Old Depot on Ballina Island, and on shark nets some years ago.

Cr Ben Smith also changed his mind at the last minute last month without warning, after saying he would support the affordable housing project.

Cr Smith later told The Echo he was swayed by Cr McCarthy’s comments on the matter, suggesting he could again be swayed today.

Should today’s vote come down to a tie, it will require a casting vote from the mayor.

Something in the water

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 has spoken out against the Rous County Council’s decision to remove the dam from its list of future water security ideas for much of the Northern Rivers including Ballina, Byron, Lismore and Richmond Valley local government areas.

Water demand is expected to outstrip supply, which mostly comes from the Rocky Creek Dam, by 2024.

The Rous County Council has agreed to investigate options including groundwater extraction, water recycling, more sustainable water practices and desalination rather than consider a new dam.

But Cr Cadwallader is refusing to give up on the Dunoon Dam and her latest move has been to call for an independent water science team to ‘examine all aspects relating to water’ in the Richmond/Wilsons River catchment area including security, quality, flood mitigation and river health, according to notes on her proposal for the Ballina Shire Council.

Cr Cadwallader says she wants the new team, if agreed on, to investigate ‘potential economic development opportunities and other benefits that would flow’ from their research.

Her proposal, to be heard again today, suggests writing to state parliamentarians ‘highlighting the need’ for the new science team.

Today’s Ballina Shire Council ordinary meeting can be viewed via live streaming through the Ballina Shire Council website.

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  1. Cr Cadwallader is not being straight with her constituents. The Dunoon Dam (DuD) is the most expensive and least secure option for water supply for the future.

    People on low incomes would be especially affected by the rise in water rates. They would be paying up front for water consumers not even born yet.

    She needs to stop white-anting Rous County Council, stop spreading misinformation that the DuD is a magic silver bullet, and start leading in a safe direction.

    • Then there is nothing to be afraid of with another scientific review, as it should only add further support of this statement that the Dam is not suitable, the more science the better. Don’t start dismissing science like the liberal and nationals party just because of your agenda.

      • Demand exceeds supply in 2024. The dam would take at least 8 years from now, or even longer given the expected legal challenges from the Traditional Owners who do not agree to another Juukan Cave debacle. Another layer of studies, as suggested by Cr Cadwallader, would delay action even further.

        On the other hand, water efficiencies can start immediately, would be much cheaper and would deliver more water. This is according to Prof Stuart White who was engaged by Rous to provide a plan for future water.

        It is hard not to think that those obsessing about building the DuD have some other agenda than water security.

        • Nan, there is only so far that water efficiency can go to address this problem, especially if nobody wants to fight population growth or talk about replacing flush toilets. I have not seen you talking about either of these Nan, or anybody else opposing this dam (so if you have, it has been a token effort).

          After that limit is reached, we need more supply.

          Further, in a changing climate, we are likely to need water to irrigate crops currently not using irrigation water here – macadamias and grain crops. Improving water efficiency won’t address this issue.

          Yes, we do need to have water efficiency initiatives alongside catching more water to last out longer, harsher droughts (punctuated by big rain events which can fill bigger storages). Not instead of, alongside.

          By focusing on the next three years to dismiss a longer term solution you are showing your age, frankly, Nan. This short-term focus, dismissing the longer-term needs of young(er) people, is the hallmark of your generation, and it is sad that you have now started down this path too.

          The only truly non weather-dependent solution is desalination and pumping uphill. This has to be considered, because it is the only non weather-dependent option. But I think anyone can see it is likely to have a very significant carbon footprint. This needs to be analysed and quantified, and I have suggested this repeatedly, including in a written submission to Rous, but, once again, nobody (including all the self-proclaimed “greens”) is interested in doing the carbon accounting.

          There is certainly no obvious correct answer to this dilemma, given we don’t know how low rainfall runoff will go and how quickly. Anyone who claims there is one is clearly acting out of biased agenda.

          But assessing the carbon footprint of the desalination option is a necessary and key step towards making the most informed decision possible.

          I urge you to support this key investigation Nan. Stop being biased and one-eyed, and support the full investigation of the possible pathways out of the situation we are in.

  2. Dams are a reliable source of community water used by humans for thousands of years
    Not every person can afford a water tank even with subsidies but can easily contribute to a community water supply like a dam, dams may have a large upfront cost but they are still the cheapest and most reliable option for community water pulling water from aquifers or creating desal plants is a fast road to privatised water these are high tech solutions that aren’t suitable for an area that cant even maintain a road network and railway line our forefathers footed the bill for the existing dam its time we did the same for a new dam.

    • The proposed dam was only to catch the overflow from Rocky Creek dam, that only overflows 10 – 40 % of the time in high rain years. In extended droughts it would have no catchment and would not be a secure water supply, whereas using storm water catchment from a far larger catchment than Rocky Creeks narrow catchment, and water from the deep untapped ground water sources will give more water security. And desal would be the most secure ongoing source. Dams run dry – in the extended drought early this century we had water trucks delivering water to inland towns as the only supply and they had plans in place to move the entire towns populations out, and the climate is changing where we must expect even longer drought periods. Putting all our eggs into two dams on the one narrow catchment is a way of ensuring there will be times when there is no water available

    • Hear, Hear !
      Dennis you have absolutely nailed it. Is so reassuring to have a little sanity enter the discussion, in this age of alternate ‘facts’ and downright misinformation, I don’t believe I have ever witnessed such a concerted, orchestrated and misleading campaign against such a benign and obviously essential community infrastructure that has been well planned , the land has been secured and paid for decades previously, funding has been provided and all that is required is for construction to commence.
      Dam building has it’s drawbacks, siltation and restricting access to aquatic life-forms amongst them. It would be reasonable to prohibit agricultural irrigation from the Rous system but the conservation measures promoted may be desirable and helpful , but will go nowhere to support the booming numbers, due to our status quo of the uncontrolled and government sponsored overpopulation policy.
      The nonsense of arguing that rainfall is not reliable, in one of the wettest sites in the country (nearby Mt.Nardi receives 120 inches -approx. 3 meters per annum.) is cherry- picking of irrelevant reports of the most dubious type. Equally tenuous is the claim of native involvement with the site, after 60,000 years of habitation every centimetre can be claimed ‘sensitive’ to half a dozen ‘uncles’ and would apply just as well to the property Nanette has purchased, just below where the dam wall is to be built.
      Cheers, G”)

      • I agree with you, Ken, on the “uncontrolled and government sponsored overpopulation problem”. This is the key to the issue. Eternal growth is a pyramid scheme that is good for developers and hardly anyone else, certainly not the people who already live here. Maybe all the people who are worried about this problem could work together?

        The dam is not funded. There will be no federal funding as this is not an agricultural dam. There might be some state funding if the government hasn’t already worked out that this is a hot potato that they don’t need. The people paying would be the current rate-payers. A safer suggestion is that developers pay up front for water collection (eg tanks under the house as is done commonly elsewhere). This is scalable and expandable as necessary.

        Past rainfall reliability is no guide to the future, as has been made abundantly clear by climate change scientists. It might be OK to take a risk on future rainfall not showing up, but not when it is your only option. Do you do that with your finances?

        Yes, every inch of the land is precious to the Traditional Owners. How many inches can you think of that have been conceded to them? The area of the proposed DuD has extra evidence in the form of burial sites that have been assessed by some of Australia’s pre-eminent archeologists (eg Douglas Hobbs, who excavated the “hobbit” in Indonesia).

        And yes , where I live is in the most dangerous zone of the flooding that occurs when large dams overspill during extreme rain events. In this case Rous has estimated that the increase in peak discharge in an extreme event could be 18% more than if no dam were there. (If you find this hard to understand, which I did initially, I can provide the references that explain it)

        I have been opposing the DuD for over 20 years and it is my bad luck to have moved to the most vulnerable area 8 years ago, after I believed it was unlikely to be resurrected. I would have continued to oppose it anyway but I have to admit that the fear of catastrophic flooding is an added incentive.

  3. WaterNSW, Sydney Water and the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment have just Adopted to investigate rolling our further desalination plants in planning for a water supply independent from rainfall, because it is the only supply that can be depended upon. Desal plants arent cheap but would form a stable base line supply when it doesnt rain, which expensive dams wont. Rous’s other adopted options of vastly expanding the rain catchment area by capturing roof storm water from all our towns and developed areas also gives more security than the 2 dams on a narrow catchment, and the 3rd part of Rous’s adopted strategy of getting access to ground water has provided the most reliable scenario of a supply of water. The two dams on a narrow catchment is a recipe for times of no available water.

  4. Dennis it would take 2.2 million of those huge 5000 gallon (22,000 litre) water tanks we put on our rural properties, to store as much water as the proposed dam.

    Even if every household in the Rous water area had their share of these tanks (not just new dwellings), then every household would have to have a lot of them (6-8 each? 10 each?). Including flats.

    Clearly water tanks won’t replace anything like that level of storage; just a token effort as usual.

    But, once again, the greens ignore this in favour of emotional qualitative-only segments about water tanks being part of their “solution”. This is why so many people think the greens are not worthy of governing – because they won’t think through their arguments in a quantitative fashion, so come up with unworkable nonsense as “solutions”


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