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Byron Shire
January 23, 2022

Water security

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There seems to be a lot of confusion amongst those agitating for a simplistic single solution to the water security issue in the Northern Rivers.

1. They seem to think that local government area (LGA) councillors elected to Rous County Council (RCC) will be able to (a) override state water policy (b) ignore the investigation by the CSIRO and (c) direct RCC to overturn the water security measures that it has spent the last year planning, implementing and employing new staff to carry out.

2. They claim to be in favour of the CSIRO investigation but keep demanding ‘just build the dam’.

3. They seem to think that asking for further investigations into a new dam but discounting all other options is ‘keeping options open’.

4. Some of them are climate-change deniers, ie they deny human involvement or responsibility in global heating. That probably means they don’t understand why climate change is going to be an increasing problem for water storage in dams.

5. They seem to be anti-science, eg a recent Facebook contributor who, when asked to provide some science supporting the Dunoon Dam, said ‘It is not science, it is elementary as in sense and sensibility. Science has nothing to do with it.’

6. They seem to think that a majority of the Northern Rivers community wants another dam on the same creek. This belief is based on thousands of signatures grabbed in malls or kerbside for a push-poll petition (eg ‘Do you want to drink poo water or do you want a new dam?’). They believe these have the same value as normal submissions supported by arguments. 

Interestingly, the actual written submissions (as opposed to proformas) in RCC’s 2021 exhibition of the Future Water Plan 2060 were 72 per cent against the dam (Page 35 of the RCC Future Water Plan 2060 Public Exhibition of revised Integrated Water Cycle Management Strategy Report on Outcomes, July 2021). Admittedly, there were only 193 of these submissions but it is clear that those who actually read the evidence and take the time to write a submission are mostly in favour of diverse water options and against the eggs-in-one-basket approach.

This follows RCC’s first public exhibition in 2020 which also had an overwhelming majority of respondents who gave clear reasons for being pro-diversity and against the dam.

Backing this up again are the submissions recently released by NSW Water, in response to its draft Far North Coast Regional Water Strategy. These showed that 92.4 per cent were in favour of diverse water options and against the Dunoon Dam.

We will just have to hope that the new councillors on RCC will be more informed and able to make decisions based on science, economics and climate predictions, not populist bluster.

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