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Byron Shire
February 6, 2023

Public subs ‘predominantly’ oppose proposed dam 

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The area covered by the Far North Coast Regional Water Strategy.

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

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32 COMMENTS

  1. The Nicholsons (et al) have done a fine job of scaring the community over this essential dam with active support of their alternate community.
    Well folks – it looks like we may be saddled with another “green” white elephant panacea, powered by oodles of ratepayers’ money.
    Yet no-one has examined other factors such as recreational and tourism benefits to our Region.
    This is routinely done elsewhere in the world.

    • As far as being in a “minority” – I note that the Green-‘independents’-Labor vote got some considerable healthy resistance at the recent Council elections.
      Being a fresh-water fisher & living and in the NR area for the last 50 years I note with alarm the adverse effects on our creeks from increasing predation from bores and farm dams. Rocky Creek Dam was designed to provide the Lismore district water reserves for 100yrs by saving run-off water from flood events.
      But due to past Rous CC management strategies this reserve has lasted barely 50years, despite valiant efforts to curb consumption.
      So I still feel ‘de-salination’ powered by green energy’ idea is certainly not the answer.
      Sorry – we need another dam right now.

      • Having been born and bred in the Northern Rivers, and heading towards 70, I, like you, have seen plenty of change over the years.
        Now we are seeing not only social and population change, but unanticipated ( by most people ) climate change as well.
        Rocky Creek Dam was never designed with catching flood-events in mind – it was built to catch naturally yearly rainfall and run-off!
        Now the real experts tell us we must prepare for mega droughts – of a scale two dams on a small creek are just incapable of handling. Dunoon dam sounded good back in the 1900’s when the idea got legs… but things change, and what was good then, isn’t now. We need water supplies that are less climate dependent.
        Sorry, but pursuing a dam will waste time and money, and can’t do the job.

        • I’m interested that you say the Dunoon Dam was discussed as an option for Lismore City water security in 1900.
          Do you have any documentation I could access ?

  2. I’m sure rob if you sat down and read the reports it would help. Talk about scare mongering “green white elephant panacea powered by oodles of ratepayers money” it is water supply dam not a recreational and tourist destination- haven’t seen anybody swimming or fishing In rocky creek dam.
    You do know why gold coast water tastes terrible due to the high levels of chlorination from using their dams for recreation. Do you want that? Diversity is important in water supplies, it was a shame ballina shire fell for the drinking toilet water scare of the mayor when water recycling is mentioned.

    • Yes, I have- and so – what was your take on the best solution for our region as regards water requirements?
      A scatter-gun/multiple solution approach, perhaps?
      A decision on the future water-needs of our Region* has been too long in the planning, we need action now. (*NB -includes Kyogle, Tweed & Richmond areas too – not just coastal areas).

      • Since the previous Minister for Water, Melinda Pavey announced a CSIRO review into the needs of the Far North Coast, the action is underway, so let’s see what they come up with. There’s an under-utilised dam out at Toonumbar, for starters, and lots of wastage to curtail.
        Your characterisation of a “scatter-gun” approach is better looked at as a “risk-management diversification” . The difference is that you are choosing a number of options all of which can deliver some of what you need, but without being dependent on any single one which could fail painfully. Simple investment strategy.

        • What ever clever monica you choose JIm, I think my analogy over multiple contributions to NR water security broadly agrees with yours. There also of course could be a contribution in this strategy from irrigators – even from the “sleepers”.

  3. We, as a species, are well overdue to recognise the phenomenal pressures we bear on our natural resources.
    It is utterly ridiculous how much rainwater is lost through down-pipes and into the ocean.
    Each inch or 25mm of rain is around 4,000 litres or 4 tonnes of water lost on each average sized house roof, that doesn’t go into a tank.
    Like just about everything, it’s up to the individual to manage our consumption of water and energy and where they come from.
    If you’re aware, it’s easy to manage.
    So many people have Solar PV panels and are becoming aware of their consumption.
    We need to do the same with water.

    • Mate – If you only knew what a Fankinstein problem we have over re-cycling old solar power modules we will have in the future!
      Mostly made in China – with coal-fired energy and slave labour.
      They are really laughing at you.

  4. It’s not a matter of “scaring the community”, it’s about caring about the environment, the local indigenous heritage, the wider community and developing more sustainable infrastructure. Please avoid trying to stir divisive views & rejecting anything you disagree with name calling eg. “ green”.

  5. i found the cultural report on the Dunoon dam site of great interest even though its public content was greatly redacted. Of high significance was a group of Aboriginal graves with headstones (so post-invasion) that may have been located below the proposed FSL of the dam. They were perhaps from a late 18th C reservation near Dunoon. So it could be an opportunity to relocate these to a prominent position above FSL so the story of this Aboriginal reservation could be more widely understood.

    And as we know many of our local Italian families were also held in a concentration camp at the Channon during WWII.

    And the Egyptians (with much international support) moved massive temples to accommodate Aswan.

    • Perhaps you could advise us of your archeological expertise when you assert the Widjabul Wia-bal burials must be post invasion. Additionally, in the Australian context the small parcels of land that Indigenous Australians were forced onto are generally known as “reserves”, so perhaps you have confused the situation with the USA “reservations”.
      Finally, as Widjabul Wia-bal elders have repeated asked for the burials to be protected and undisturbed, I think your proposition to excavate and move them is at best somewhat deaf to their voices.

  6. Rob Andrews, are you the same gun lobbyist and duck-shooter that my father Laurie Chelsworth used to regularly lock horns with?

    It is interesting that state government policy outlined by NSW Water and the Productivity Commission, plus the Water Services Association of Australia, all preference multiple solutions to water security. None of them are run by the Greens as far as I know. None of them promote the all-water-in-one-bucket approach to preparing for climate change.

    • So tell me again – what was your erudite/cogent point over our current immediate water supply issue for the increasing regional populace on N/Rivers ?
      Do you have a cogent solution for this debate?
      Or are you primarily relying on your family-learned historical/ green knee-jerk activism to all matters that affect your $$ properties ?

  7. Agree with Tim & Silversister….why is it that a “GREEN” tag / or label on any issue is still seen to some as negative/costly or scary ? I just don’t get that ? It’s like rejecting motherhood/ or sunshine or clean food or clean air?? Hello, the “Green” movement is why we still have some beautiful , pristine (almost pristine) National Parks / high conservation value regions and isolated regions of healthy bush , meaning that some wildlife can survive. It’s the main reason as to why all the critics & nay sayers of a”hippie philosophy ” actually want to come to the Northern Rivers . How ironic is that ? Adopting a ‘Green ” mindset means that this ailing planet JUST MIGHT SURVIVE, how about that? But only if MOST people become ecologically literate, not just the minority. However, I must say I don’t hold out much hope, witnessing what I have over 40 years plus. Seems like human primates are Hell bent on destroying the only home they have. As TIM SAID ABOVE WE WASTE SOOOOO MUCH WATER , when most of it is lost into the ocean, so crazy. Both State & Federal Govt’s should be subsiding (& even giving ) water tanks to citizens, Hell knows they can afford it when they give billions of dollars to coal & gas industries EACH year. NO DUNOON DAM….

  8. Dams are great for lining the pockets of Political Donors. Construction Companies LOVE dams and so do the politicians who give them the contracts. HUGE amounts of cash get splashed about on DAMS. Don’t be fooled into thinking it is about water security, it’s all about MONEY.

  9. JBean, the graves are pre-contact, verified by a very eminent archeologist.

    They are also known by local Widjabul Wia-bal people.

    They would definitely be drowned by a dam.

    They are living heritage as well as priceless archeology. The story of this Indigenous community is best told by not drowning their heritage, as the Widjabul have stated over and over.

    This is Australian heritage. It is important to all of us. Just like the Juukan Cave.

    • This country is a proud democracy, so we all have to bend to the national will and progress at times.
      [I know I have had to do this excact same thing in the near past.]

  10. As regards the water tanks panacea solution some have proposed here.
    May I give you my experience, as a long-time NR resident ?
    First – we had problems with roof debris, including flying-fox extreta, bird poo etc in right our drinking water.
    Not healthy.
    Secondly – we had ti-tree leaves from a neighbour’s tree forced through the fine tank filter, making it taste like ditch-water.
    Thirdly – our tank rusted-out due to corrosion from all of the the above – [the bottom went first.]
    That is not to say concrete/plastic tanks may do better than galv in this regard, but I spoke to some of these other types of rainwater- tank owners – they reported opossum bones and other debris was found when they were eventually emptied-out. Yuk.
    Not nice thing to think about when you are having a nice cosy cuppa.

    • Hi Rob, the elephant in the room is population growth.
      As stated above the Far North Coast water supply is already under stress, Rocky Creek Dam was paid for by the rate payers of Lismore, but is no longer able to supply the Lismore and the other LGA’s that draw from it.
      Climate Change is already affecting all of us and will do so increasingly into the future.
      Droughts and floods will get worse, more eratic and intense.
      Another dam on Rocky creek might serve in an El Ninia season, but will utterly fail in El Nino cycles.
      Limiting population growth serves to preserve what is already here, letting it rip will down grade everything.
      We must recognise that we live in a finite environment and act accordingly.
      I know it goes against our past and present philosophies of unlimited growth , but the situation has changed, and so must we.

  11. Rob – ROUS has voted on it, the NSW Govt Dept of planning and Industry has done a Report on it – how about you read the reasons why a new dam wont provide water security. Dont accept Cadawalladers dumbed down election campaign divisiveness at face value. A new dam would be 5 years away, which is later than we need, would be massively expensive (coming from your pocket mate) and would rely on overflow from Rocky Creek dam ( on a one creek catchment), which in times of low rainfall or drought, may be no overflow. Water tanks – 1st best use: connect to toilets and outside taps for garden, car washing etc ( leaving more Rous supplied water to drink), 2nd best use send it back to local councils water depot to a) be used at low grade cleanup for public toilets, park grass etc ( as Byron Council is doing now), 3rd best use cleaned up and put into potable water supply, 4th best use, used to recharge aquifers (with associated aquifer water extraction infrastructure in place for access in droughts. Pollution in rainwater tanks – yes, the same pollution from leaves and animal bones in Rocky Creek, which gets cleaned up before the water hits your tap. But even with spreading the risk by having a number of water sources, in an extended drought then a desal plant may be the only source (there is plenty of water in the ocean). Happy to desecrate burial sites? Then how about you tell us where your parents are buried ( I dont believe in desecrating grave sites, but would support a very public ceremony there at the graves of MR and Mrs Andrews to raise the the ongoing racist contempt for Aboriginal people – You do realise that your blind contempt for these people is part of the reason so many young Aboriginals commit suicide. We ‘re lucky most Aboriginals are decent people and lucky they turn such contempt back on themselves rather than blowing up bus’s and knifing people in the street, but you should consider even that fact because they may not always if we cant reconcile white society with our black history

    • Really John you have emotionally gone ‘over the top’ on the graves issue, getting personal is most unhelpful in the current debate.
      Respect is due to every Aussie.
      But burning and cancel-culture by a minority is at best divisive – at worst the destroying property is domestic terrorism.
      Your point over “cleaning up” domestic tank water seems to me to be highly impractical for a majority of these users, spread as they are over the whole Region and not just the prime coastal fringe.

      • Your multiple comments really are arrogant, factually ignorant, personally abusive. Maybe the Echo editor is on leave? Or just wanted to expose all readers to this infantile display of hypocrisy?

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