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Byron Shire
June 15, 2024

Outgoing Ballina independent speaks out against Dunoon Dam campaign

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Dr Sharon Parry, Independent candidate for Ballina’s C Ward. Photo contributed

Like many on the Northern Rivers, the 2021 Ballina council election campaigns have largely focused on development and a declared housing crisis.

But despite being mooted, scrapped, mooted and scrapped again within a twelve-month period in 2020 and 2021, debates over the Dunoon Dam have persisted, shifting from the arena of the Rous County Council to demand the spotlight in Ballina mayoral campaigns.

Of the five 2021 mayoral candidates, all of them existing councillors, three are in support of another inquiry into the feasibility of a dam near the hinterland village of Dunoon to help address predicted future regional water security needs.

Those councillors are Eoin Johnston, Sharon Cadwallader and Stephen McCarthy.

Ballina councillors divided over Dunoon Dam

Councillor Cadwallader has been representing the Ballina Shire Council on the Rous County Council, which is made up of representatives from four local governments: Byron Shire Council, Ballina Shire Council, Richmond Valley Council and Lismore City Council.

But Cr Cadwallader has consistently disagreed with her fellow Ballina Shire councillor representative and chair of Rous, Keith Williams, over the idea of a dam in Dunoon.

Cr Williams and Cr Jeff Jonson are the two Ballina mayoral candidates to have declared themselves supportive of Rous County Council’s decision to move ahead with alternative water security options including desalination, recycling and groundwater extraction.

Cr Williams has defended the option of groundwater extraction from the Alstonville plateau, saying the water sought would come from basins far deeper than those tapped by farmers in the region.

Both Crs Williams and Jonson have objected to the description of water recycling as ‘toilet to tap’, saying it’s a misleading claim since recycled water would only be used for non-drinking purposes.

Cr Parry says people feel ‘misled’ over Dunoon Dam campaign

The debate isn’t exclusive to those vying for Ballina’s top council job: outgoing independent Cr Sharon Parry has seldom contacted The Echo during her time on the council but says she felt honour bound this week.

Her comments on the continued Dunoon Dam campaign follow.

‘There has been an intensive campaign undertaken during 2021 on the Plateau, targeting C Ward voters, by an existing councillor who is running a loud campaign for the mayoral role,’ Cr Parry wrote.

The independent councillor later declined to name the councillor she referred to but clarified they were not necessarily a representative of Ballina’s C Ward, which includes Alstonville.

‘The strategy has been to urge residents (through leafleting and personal advances at the Alstonville Shopping Plaza) to sign their approval for the Dunoon Dam,’ Cr Parry wrote, ‘on the basis that this will permit Alstonville’s aquifers to be left untapped in the case of drought’.

‘This seemingly logical connection is not recommended by the Rous County Council staff, nor is it a logical connection,’ Cr Parry continued.

‘Many residents have contacted me to say that they did not realise what they were signing.

‘Further, a considerable number have reported that they felt they were misled.’

The survey Cr Parry refers to has previously been cited in at least one Rous County Council meeting this year, where some councillors, including Byron’s representative Cr Cate Coorey, questioned its validity.

Doubts over Alstonville shopping centre Dunoon Dam survey

Cr Parry told The Echo as an academic researcher with experience in data collection, she objected to the survey reportedly distributed this year at the Alstonville Shopping Plaza.

‘I must point out that the submission proforma provided by the now candidate used leading questions; closed (yes/no) questions;  inappropriate background information about the issue, and other non-rigorous methods of data collection to generate what is claimed to be 11,000 signatures supporting the dam,’ Cr Parry wrote.

‘Threats such as “you will be drinking toilet water”, or “poo water” have been widely used, including in radio and television advertising,’ she wrote.

‘None of this is true.  Millions of Europeans, British and Americans drink recycled water that is as pure as Evian from Switzerland.

‘I hope that all the Northern Rivers will have provision of potable and also agricultural grade water from groundwater recycling as soon as possible.’

Cr Parry said she urged all residents to ‘go online and research this issue for themselves’.

‘And to support responsible candidates for council and the mayoral role,’ she added.

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  1. whats the problem with signing a petition in a supermarket? i signed the no csg and bought lock the gate stickers for my car at the car boot market and that petition was enshined as the gospel of the public.

    • I don’t think it was signing the petition at the shopping centre which was the problem it was the information which was given to people who had no chance to check out the facts for themselves. It was a matter of sign here. For many it was the first they had heard of it.

    • if you read the article properly Dennis it doesn’t say its concern s s about the shopping Centre. Its concern is the false scare mongering in the petition and the misleading of many who signed. The same could be said of the online petition. Retiring Cr Sharon Parry is extremely well qualified to criticise the petition and in particular its selling in the Alstnnville shopping plaza where observers commented on the way the signatures were being gathered. People in Alstonville are acutely aware of their need for the upper aquifers so particularly susceptible for this kind of misinformation.
      Rather than base a whole of our furture water supply on the nonsense being given to passers by who were in no position to know it was nonsense, the petition needs to be put n the bin exactly where it belongsand those who sold it to be censured.

  2. Well, it will be good to see the back of her. Total achievement and contribution to Ballina: Zero. Of course the watermelon Green ,in Labor and Independent ‘clothing’ candidates for mayor (Williams and Jonson) don’t want the dam built. It will solve the issue of ongoing water security. Despite what that climate fool, Tim Flannery stated many moons ago. Build the dam and it will fill.

    • One trick pony. How many comments have you posted accusing people of being “watermelon greens” whatever that’s supposed to be…. but judging from the tone I guessing it’s supposed to be a clever insult?

  3. So poor silly constituents aren’t smart enough to understand they are signing a petition but fortunately our wise elected member knew what we really want… Sure thing oh magnificent and wise one

  4. for the TLDR crowd…. we asked people what they wanted. They didn’t say what we wanted them to say so they must have been confused but don’t worry, we elected officials are far smarter than the 11,000 who tried to give their opinion… poor dears just didn’t understand what they were doing.

  5. I am very pleased councillor Parry has raised this deception to the Locals and the fear campaign by the same matrix candidate on radio & TV as Dr Lyn Walker raised on 25.11.21.
    Today 1.12.21 Keith Williams reported that he called the candidate a liar when she made knowingly false claims about Indigenous heritage/sights at a public meeting.
    Ballina needs a mayor they can trust.

  6. “Councillor, Councillor, the proles are revolting.”
    “Mais oui, zey only bathe in ze ocean!”
    “No, no- they object to the dam”
    “Pfft….let zem drink Evian!”

  7. Sharon Cadwallader has probably never been for a bushwalk in her life, let alone gone for a walk to whian whian falls and the gorge below the falls, Which is what will be flooded by this new dam. She doesn’t even live in Dunoon, but expects their local community to lose a treasured asset and beautiful natural area. It is a beautiful piece of regenerating rainforest with lots of large trees and remnant bits of rainforest.

    The beuracrats that run the electricity grid are complaining of the grid being overloaded with rooftop solar and the regulator is now going to charge owners of rooftop solar to put their power in the grid from 2025(what a joke). Why don’t we use this surplus of power to run desalination plants to add water to the water cycle instead of building more dams that flood arable land that can’t be used.

    Sharon Cadwallader has herself on her campaign poster pictured with a koala, yet at the same time, is advocating to flood a large piece of rainforest and koala habitat. She is a joke. Vote this fool out. Let’s get some new faces in council.

  8. Quite rightly Cr Parry has spoken out about the questionable campaign re supporting the Dunoon Dam & it’s time more people didn’t also speak out because the campaign, supported by Eoin Johnson, Sharon Cadwallader & Stephen McCarthy, has as many holes as an Emmental cheese. Cr Parry points out, among other things, that the data collection was questionable. Here’s another example – a full page advert on The Northern Rivers Times (11 Nov. 2021; p.15) with the banner “Silent Majority – Democracy Restored” and a cute little graphic saying “85% say Yes to the Dam”. Well 85% of what? Of those bailed up at the shops by people standing beside their pro-dam stall? Or 85% of people is the bar one night? Year six school children know that you have to give the basis of your statistics. As for the scaremongering – well that’s just playing to the galley of the ignorant and bigoted.
    Will we be seeing Q-Anon banners and MAGA caps next as part of this campaign?

  9. Flooding this region to put in a damned dam reminds me of the inconceivable minds of the Taliban when the destroyed heritage landmarks. See: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhas_of_Bamiyan

    These people pushing the dam have no respect for an incredible piece of paradise and are acting from the mindset of terrorists against nature.

    There are other solutions if they cared to research them.

    • Rous Water doesn’t whip up ideas on a whim; it researched years ago and identified the best site for a new dam to increase water supply.

      There are other things that can be done to address water security, but outright rejecting the idea of storing more water too, in a climate emergency of a heating planet, is very foolish.

      A critical piece of information – comparing the carbon footprint of the various options over a 100 year timeframe – has been left unresearched by everyone, including conspicuously by those that constantly declare “climate emergency – someone do something”. In a climate emergency due to CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels, this is a sad indictment of our society and no informed decision on what is the best way to proceed can be made as a result

  10. Fast forward …. the rate variation was approved (and other) but with 12 months only IPART permission on the initial 1.5%. This rate variation has since been confirmed as permanent. In most cases this 1.5% is matched by NSW Gov funding amounting to a significant amount of money.
    May we respectfully ask that prior to casting your pre-poll vote or your vote on Saturday, that you ask your preferred candidate if they would endorse supporting a greater proportion of this 1.5% rate variation to some of the real root cause issues of our river health… otherwise, where it is really being spent? Ask yourself that next time you look a fresh new strip of pavement that Ballina council loves to overspend on… what a joke.

  11. Build the dam! It’s such a draw card. An easy solution right? What if we look at it this way. The Dunoon dam proposed for Rocky Creek… is the SECOND dam on the same creek. THREE times as big as Rocky Creek Dam with only HALF the catchment area. It’s not a solution. Neither is destroying the forest or cultural heritage. There are other ways.

  12. Anyone who tries to campaign with statements like “…plunder the aquifers” and “…they want you to drink toilet water” should be ignored. This type of dishonest nonsense has no place in a rational debate. Sharon Cadwallader you are a disgrace. The facts and science of Aquifer use on the Alstonville plateau and the use of recycled water have been stated time and time again yet those with the expertise in these matters are forced to engage in dialogue with dishonest scaremongerers like you, again, you are a disgrace, Cadwallader, withdraw from this election and let us have someone with ethics and scruples to vote for.

  13. Parry is in watermelon Williams pocket. She did nothing positive for the Council other than be a political animal. Good time for her to go. Williams changes his mind like the wind! No credibility……….Time for new blood……..

  14. Interesting that three of the mayoral candidates support an inquiry into Ballina’s future water needs, but I don’t hear any of them proposing to slow or cease development until future water supply has been secured. Business as usual and let someone else deal with the mess?


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