Public submissions in response to a future water strategy for the region have been released by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE).
DPIE say of the Far North Coast Regional Water Strategy, the feedback received ‘was predominantly in opposition to the proposed Dunoon Dam at Rocky Creek (Option 14 of 39 options)’.
There was support for ‘proposed desalination infrastructure that is fuelled by green energy options’.
The 142-page strategy was on public exhibition from October 30 until December 13, 2020, and covers ‘three catchments of the Richmond River (7,026 km2), the Tweed River (1,080 km2) and the Brunswick River (512 km2)’.
On page 11, the Strategy says, ‘The region’s population is around 240,000’, which includes Tweed Heads, Lismore, Ballina, Casino, Murwillumbah, as well as smaller towns such as Byron Bay, Mullumbimby, Nimbin and Kyogle.
‘The Far North Coast’s water resources are already under pressure’, the strategy says, on page 35. ‘Changing climate conditions will increase this pressure and the water management challenges facing the region’.
Public feedback on the strategy was broad in ‘support for improving the recognition of First Nations/Aboriginal People’s water rights, interests and access to water. There was recognition that inclusion of Aboriginal knowledge of land and water management could enhance the outcomes of many of the proposed options’.
Other public feedback called for the ‘adoption of water efficiency projects to increase supply through reduced wastage and for population management’.
Groundwater knowledge lacking
Additionally, ‘Stakeholders expressed that better groundwater knowledge was an imperative and that more work is needed to better understand the relationship between surface water and groundwater resources. There was concern that groundwater sources were being exploited through commercial harvesting for water bottling’.
While Ballina’s new Mayor, Sharon Cadwallader, has been vocal in her support of Dunoon Dam, it’s unclear how the Rous Council, which is made up of members of four regional councils, will eventually vote on the issue.
Nan Nicholson of WATER Northern Rivers Alliance told The Echo she commends NSW Water on their report, and ‘its accurate appraisal of the informed community concern about a second dam on Rocky Creek’.
‘We also commend Rous County Council on its ongoing program for securing alternative water sources while working to reduce demand.
‘The results of the Far North Coast Draft Regional Water Strategy public consultation demonstrate that the Dunoon Dam has no social licence and its imposition on an unwilling community would involve high levels of social disunity and disruption’.
Ms Nicholson added, ‘Our innovative and intelligent community deserves better than being dragged back into the past with large, risky and expensive infrastructure projects such as the Dunoon Dam’.
View the report, here.