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August 14, 2022

Rous Councillor moves a motion to resurrect the Dunoon Dam

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The Channon Gorge and many Widjabul Wia-bal burial places will be underwater if the Dunoon Dam goes ahead. Photo David Lowe.

Just when we thought we’d seen the last of the Dunoon Dam, over a year after it was scrapped in 2020, a Rous councillor is moving a motion to put it back on the table.

The 2021 LGA elections saw the Dunoon Dam used as a platform for swaying votes on December 4, often the choice of ‘toilet water’ or the dam the only possibilities offered by candidates.

Now that this term of local government has begun, Ballina, Lismore and Richmond Valley Council have seen pro-dam councillors elected to the Rous Country Council which is made up of eight councillors – two from each of the constituent councils of Ballina, Byron, Lismore and Richmond Valley.

With the swearing-in of this term’s representatives, councils chose Councillors Sharon Cadwallader and Rod Bruem for Ballina, Councillors Michael Lyon and Sarah Ndiaye for Byron, Councillors Andrew Gordon and Big Rob for Lismore and Councillors Robert Mustow and Sandra Humphrys for Richmond Valley.

Ballina Mayor Sharon Cadwallader has been voted on to Rous. Photo David Lowe.

Ballina’s new Mayor Sharon Cadwallader has been nothing if not desperate to see the dam approved and has gone to extraordinary lengths to see it become a reality.

Ms Cadwallader has been voted on to Rous and she joins at least five other dam supporters on the Council.

Apart from the Byron representation, this group of Councillors have been clear about their support of the dam.

A motion to put the dam back on the table

After their first get together, Cr Big Rob, who was elected to Lismore City Council at the 42nd count, seems to be setting a trend of trying to reverse past decisions and has put forward a motion to revisit the outcome voted on by Rous in December 2020, to take the dam off the table.

Cr Rob’s motion – That Rous County Council:

1. Adopt Revision 7 of the Integrated Water Cycle Management (IWCM) Strategy and update Revision 7 of the IWCM to reflect the inclusion of Dunoon dam investigations as part of the Future Water Project 2060

2. Approve the completion of detailed cultural heritage and biodiversity assessments associated with the proposed Dunoon dam in consultation with relevant Traditional Custodians.

3. Defer implementing the resolution associated with the proposed Dunoon dam, resolved by Council at its meeting of 16 December 2020 (resolution [61/20] Item 2), until after Stage 3 options have been determined.

4. Utilise existing budget allocations for Dunoon dam land management to progress the actions in Item 2.

Cate Faehrmann MLC, Uncle Goongie John Roberts, Skye Roberts, Auntie Leonee Nowta and Catherine Cusack MLC. Photo Tree Faerie.

The Widjabul Wia-bal people’s very clear ‘no’

In regards to point 2, the Widjabul Wia-bal say they have been nothing but very clear about what they do and don’t want – and the dam is what they don’t want, the water would drown around 25 burial places within the proposed dam area. They also don’t t want any more Cultural Heritage Studies done.

Last week Cate Faehrmann MLC and Catherine Cusack MLC visited the site – Ms Faehrmann said she believed the cultural significance of the site made this an issue for government at both state and federal level. ‘It’s not up to Rous. It’s far beyond Rous,’ she said.

Ballina’s new Mayor and Rous councillor Sharron Cadwallader says that it is a decision for Rous in the first instance. ‘It’s not beyond Rous’s mandate.’

‘I applaud MLC Catherine Cusack from Lennox Head for doing her own research into water security for our region. It is only when one becomes fully informed that they truly understand the situation, associated issues and the facts. I too have walked the dam footprint.

‘With assistance, it took me four hours and would not have been able to navigate the terrain on my own because it is so inaccessible.’

Further down the track

Cr Cadwallader said Ms Cusack is right when she says there is a lot more work that needs to be done on the proposal. ‘The unfortunate thing is, had All Options been left on the table we would be that much further down the track of investigating the Dunoon Dam to see if it is going to be viable or not and ultimately securing the future water needs for our growing communities.

‘There is a lot to be concerned about with predictions that by 2024 demand will outstrip supply and our communities may be living with indefinite water restrictions. We don’t want to be in the same situation as we were in in 2002-3 when Rocky Creek Dam got down to 21 per cent and the Wilsons River source had to be brought online as an emergency costing millions of dollars. Something like $110M to date, and even in the last dry period the inflows reduced to almost nothing.

‘We need to be preparing for the dry periods now during these wet periods because we know that the changing climate is bringing us extended periods of wet and dry seasons.’

Aunty Leonee Nowta says the motion is disrespectful to Widjabul Wia-bal people. Photo Terri Nicholson.

Motion ‘deeply offensive’ to Widjabul Wia-bal

Cr Rob, who put his hand up and was voted onto Lismore Council’s Aboriginal Advisory Group, has not endeared himself with the local mob.

Widjabul Wia-bal Elder Aunty Leonee Roberts Nowta says that the Dunoon Dam motion is disrespectful to Widjabul Wia-bal people. ‘For Cr Rob to put forward this motion just after his motion to go back on the Sleeping Lizard handback promise, shows an unwillingness to listen to Traditional Owners.

‘His motion is deeply offensive to us.

‘We must protect the resting place of our ancestors. No dam at Dunoon.’

The new Rous County Council will meet at the Rous Administration Centre this Wednesday, February 16, at 10am.

Many No-Dunoon-Dam supporters will gather at the Rous building on Molesworth Street from 9am.

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  1. Cr Cadwallader says she walked the footpint of the dam.

    More than half of the footprint is privately owned and they are all opposed to the dam.

    Did she ask their permission? Especially of those surrounding the Channon Gorge. With all respect Cr Cadwallader, you were either misled, or you can’t read maps,or you trespassed. Or all of those.

  2. Cr. Cadwallader is a wizard with words.
    Walking “the dam footprint” is quite different to walking Rocky Creek below the dam site where the rare and endangered rainforest to be destroyed is situated. Perhaps she can furnish some photos of herself amongst the rainforest trees she seems keen to destroy? Just as important , perhaps she can furnish some footage of her sitting face-to-face with Widjabul Wia-bal Elders as they tell her what that country means to them.
    We have cheaper ways to deliver real water security. Cr. Cadwallader could be more productive if she found a new project like river health and weed reduction.

  3. Solar power desalination is the way to go. The electricity regulators are whinging about the oversupply of solar into the grid and are going to start charging people to put their solar into the grid from 2025. Can you believe this!!! What a joke. Why not divert this oversupply into running a deslalinator, and put the water into the grid. When the sun is shining, is when we need water. People could still be paid for their solar, and the money recouped through sale of the produced water from customers. Israel produces de sal water for 20 cents per thousand litres, which is way cheaper than what it costs to treat water out of a dam. There are smaller desal plants that cost about 32 million dollars to build, and one that serves the need of around 300k people costs 100 million. That is a 6th of the cost of the new dam, that has estimates of 600 million to build.
    Dams also take fresh water from the environment, whereas desalination ads fresh water to the environment.

    We now have the technology to make fresh water from the ocean. Let’s use it, instead of burying prime farmland that Australia doesn’t have much of, under an artificial lake.

    • “Solar powered desalination is the way to go” .. what-a-bout wind mate? When the sun doesn’t shine you could operate the desal plant on fairy farts.

  4. Sent to all Councillors on the constituent Councils that send reps to ROUS :
    Dear Councillors and General Managers of the Shire Councils that are member Councils of the ROUS County Council

    As the ROUS website does not, as yet, have your ROUS Councillor representative’s identities or contact details listed, I have emailed all Councillors, of the constituent Shire Councils.
    Rous’s website states “Our current councillors and their individual contact details To Be Announced”

    I have Requested the ROUS General Manager to withdraw Motion 12.1 Dunoon Dam, and defer it to a future Meeting, for the reasons:
    1) With the ROUS site absent of the identity and contact details of the ROUS Councillors, the public is disenfranchised from providing input on this highly controversial Motion -12.1 Dunoon Dam, proposed for the 16/02/22 ROUS Meeting. And
    2) The newly required assessment of the impact on ROUS from the Motion – In regard to the recent listing of Koalas as Endangered, which will require a Formal Application to the Federal Government for the Motions Koala Habitat loss, with a potential Federal Government decision to deny, or amend, the development, or to require ROUS to provide compensatory Koala habitat (either by allocating ROUS land, or ROUS purchasing new land, which would also include the requirement of a ROUS financial deposit, and the requirement of ongoing financial costs of the Compensatory Site management. And
    3) The capacity of Byron Shire to leave the ROUS Council, by going it alone and establishing its own desalination plants for the supply of potable water for purely Byron residents, for the reasons
    a) Byron Residents may not support the dead bodies of Aboriginal people being stored in their drinking water.
    b) That while Desal Plants are energy hungry, Byron has moved to a 100% non carbon based electricity supply, and is considering construction of two separate Green Energy production facilities, and thus it may make financial sense, as Desalination plants appear to potentially provide a longer term cheaper bulk water supply than the ROUS cost (and a consistent supply not based on rain catchment).
    4) This Motion is based on dismissing the use of recycled water, based on purely a “Toilet to Tap” election propaganda campaign by Cr Cadwallader. Despite Byron already demonstrating the effectiveness of recycled Toilet to Tap water, by already rolling out supply of recycled low grade water for public toilets, park irrigation, commercial farms, golf courses, and commercial buildings toilets (most recently the Beach Hotel), that is already significantly reducing demand for ROUS’s potable water.
    Byron Councils “Toilet to Tap” recycled water is exactly a part of the ROUS Adopted proposals for “Toilet to Tap” water that this Motion attempts to dismiss (and while treating recycled water to a potable quality is a big further step – if that is needed, some of the basic infrastructure in treatment and provision is in place in Byron, and in a decentralised regional facility that is not dependent on any Dam catchment).
    5) if this Motion gets passed then the public will have contempt for ROUS and its alleged commitment for respectful relations with the Widjabul Wia-bul residents, and would give the appearance that ROUS’s Reconciliation Action Plan is a mockery, and only fit for the bin

    Cr Robs Motion appears to be the next part of his campaign against the Widjabul Wia-bul residents, and in my opinion appears to smack of racism, and fueled by Cr Cadwaladers Toilet to Tap propoganda campaign, (where she failed to inform voters that her option was to destroy Aboriginal, and thus all Australians, heritage, and to have the dead bodies of Aboriginals stored in their new water catchment dam, despite the other well researched, and ROUS Adopted, available options).

    Councillors and GM’s – The position that your individual ROUS representatives take to ROUS is for your individual Councils as a whole to decide.
    Your ROUS reps will be representing your Councils position.
    While ROUS’s previous decisions were basically left for the ROUS Councillors to Adopt, I’d suggest this new controversial and confrontational ROUS situation would be best addressed by all individual constituent Councils publicly Adopting it’s position that its reps take to ROUS, for the benefit of public oversight, and to identify your Councils position as decided on by all Councillors.
    Ive requested that the Byron GM bring a Report to an Ord Meeting Motion on the status of the ROUS position on provision of regional water, and on this current issue, to gain the public’s input on this controversial issue, and to identify a Council position by all the Byron Shire Councillors, that the Council’s reps will take to ROUS.

    Council’s ROUS Reps – Should this controversial Motion not be deferred, then please consider voting against it.
    Race relations, as well as ROUS’s previous Adopted well informed robust decisions to provide the region with a sustainable water supply, is on the table at this Wednesday’s 16/02/22 ROUS Meeting

    John Lazarus
    Member Cavanbah Reconciliation Group
    Convenor Byron Environment Centre Inc.

    • Rather than toilet to tap, wouldn’t shower waste water to toilet be a better solution.
      Also what about reservoirs under the roads of new estates collecting rain from all the roofs that can then supply that street.

  5. Reality, build the dam by 2024, not feasible. Typical NATs or NATs not admitting they are members, only one solution, build more dams even ones making no business sense. We do know that party’s record on water management : atrocious and untrustworthy.

  6. NO NO NO
    We don’t want another Juukan Gorge type catastrophe, especially here in the Northern Rivers.
    There are plenty of ways to secure our water management and use, or re-use.
    This is much smarter than wilfully destroying this rare beautiful place, and Aboriginal heritage.

  7. I wouldn’t be surprised if the same Councillors that support the Dunoon Dam would also support massive new developments in the are, maybe even have an interest in those?

  8. Dams increase supply for a short time until demand simply expands to exceed it. What is needed is with population pressures on popular areas and climate change, are smarter and more efficient methods of water use and management.

    We’ve had the scare campaigns about “poo water” and scoffing about alternative powered de-sal but I’m surprised that in an area that has the twin features of rapid development/urbanisation and high rainfall, no-one is looking at one of the greatest potential water sources – stormwater. Urbanisation increases the area of water impenetrable surfaces which change the volume and flow of rainwater to streams and rivers carrying with it increased pollution. The effect also reduces the amount available for reabsorption to the atmosphere.

    An academic paper examines these impacts is “Urban Stormwater Runoff: A New Class of Environmental Flow Problem”
    Christopher J. Walsh1*, Tim D. Fletcher1,2, Matthew J. Burns2
    1 Department of Resource Management and Geography, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia, 2 Department of Civil Engineering and Monash Water for liveability, Monash University, Victoria, Australia )

    “ Abstract
    “ Environmental flow assessment frameworks have begun to consider changes to flow regimes resulting from land-use change. Urban stormwater runoff, which degrades streams through altered volume, pattern and quality of flow, presents a problem that challenges dominant approaches to stormwater and water resource management, and to environmental flow assessment … In urbanized catchments, dispersed urban stormwater retention measures can potentially protect urban stream ecosystems by mimicking the hydrologic effects of informal drainage, if sufficient water is harvested and kept out of the stream, and if discharged water is treated to a suitable quality. Urban stormwater is a new class of environmental flow problem: one that requires reduction of a large excess volume of water to maintain riverine ecological integrity. It is the best type of problem, because solving it provides an opportunity to solve other problems such as the provision of water for human use.”

    Seems like a win win – unlike a dam.

  9. The landholders I have spoken with have not given Sharon permission to go on their properties, so either a) Sharon is lying, or b) Sharon trespassed illegally onto private property.
    It would be good to get an answer to this Sharon

  10. I recall Big Rob starting trouble with the protesters against CSG mining out at Bentley, so getting behind the destruction of the area VIA a dam over habitat or housing development on sacred land seems about what to expect from Cr rob.
    He’s desperate to trawl back through historical council records to get the red tape reeling out on anyone that stands in the way, example: 7 Sibley Street, Nimbin.


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