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Byron Shire
August 9, 2022

Indigenous Minister pressured over Dunoon Dam consultation

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Nationals MLC Ben Franklin. (supplied)

A locally-based NSW Nationals MLC was recently pressured over his lack of consultation with Indigenous custodians regarding the contentious Dunoon Dam proposal.

According to the February 24 Hansard transcript of NSW Parliament, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Ben Franklin, was asked by Greens MP, Cate Faehrmann, if he had attempted to meet with the Widjabul Wia-bal people around their concerns about the impending destruction of 25 sacred sites, ‘should the Dunoon Dam go ahead’.

He replied in part, ‘The short answer is that I have not met with them yet. I do not think they have reached out to ask for a visit. I may be wrong, but I do not think that is the case. Of course, I would be happy to meet with them. I am happy to meet with any Aboriginal organisation or community across this State as much as I possibly can if my diary will allow’.

Mr Franklin also refused to pre-empt the outcome of any meeting, and said that, ‘We must genuinely collaborate and listen to their aims and ambitions and concerns in order to address them effectively’. 

I am happy to meet with them

He went on: ‘Can we do that in every situation? No, because there are a range of competing interests within government and they must all be balanced. But I make the commitment that I am happy to meet with them’.

He added there was no plan on the table for the Dunoon Dam, ‘though there has certainly been discussion, and a different position has been promulgated by Rous County Council after the recent local government elections, which may lead to other actions. At the moment there is no plan on the table’. for the Government’s consideration. When there is one, obviously that will need to be considered’.

‘I reiterate the point I made in question time on Tuesday, which is that we must look at what we need to do to build water and other infrastructure in this State, but we must also be incredibly sympathetic to the concerns of Aboriginal people. I will not pre-empt the outcome of those conversations, nor will I pre-empt how we can work to ensure that their concerns addressed. That would be idiotic of me to do so in this place without having actually met with them and heard their concerns firsthand.

I will listen respectfully, appropriately and genuinely

I will obviously listen respectfully, appropriately and genuinely. I will do all I can to take those concerns back to the Government and advocate for them. That is critically important for Aboriginal people across the State and for the Government, when it is balancing up those interests, can decide how it will proceed. The other point is that there is no plan on the table for the Dunoon Dam, though there has certainly been discussion, and a different position has been promulgated by Rous County Council after the recent local government elections, which may lead to other actions. At the moment there is no plan on the table for the Government’s consideration. When there is one, obviously that will need to be considered’.

 The Echo asked the Minister, who contested and failed to win the NSW seat of Ballina in 2019, if he still resided in Byron Shire. He replied, ‘Yes I am still a very proud resident of Byron. However, owing to my role as a Minister, I am home much less than I would like to be, as I have responsibilities across the state’. 

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  1. I do hope the proposed consultation goes well – an extra Dam in our catchment will certainly mitigate major flooding in future years.

    • Your hopeful and obviously don’t know where the dam is going. There is difference between water supply dams and flood mitigation. Don’t expect much from Franklin unless handing out largesse of which he is the current leader in parliament.

      • I think we should look a little deeper into flood mitigation overall in our region – not jump to conclusions or exclusions.
        Note that I didn’t say anything about the current ‘bete noir’ – Rocky Creek Dam.
        I have an open mind on where a new dam providing flood relief/potable water could/should go.

    • Given that the proposed Dunoon Dam would be on Rocky Creek which only represents 3.6% of the total catchment area that drains into Lismore, its likely that the dam would do NOTHING to mitigate flooding downstream. Actually, in the hydrology assessments it’s estimated that in a 3km radius around the dam wall the worst floods would increase by 18%.

      Those of us who live at The Channon have seen in these recent floods people living in this area, as well as the lower areas of The Channon have their homes annihilated. The idea that if the Dunoon Dam were there the flood in this immediate area would have been 18% worse is unfathomable 🙁

  2. We don’t need another dam on the same catchment as the Rocky Creek Dam. That is absurd. There are water experts who have proposed solutions for our growing population in this area that are climate change proof based on scientific grounds. To desecrate indigenous culturally significant sites and destroy part of the remaining 1% of pristine big scrub is abhorrent and we must do better in this 21st century.

  3. A second dam would not help flood mitigation as Rocky creek is under 4% of the catchment. Seems like an easy solution but it’s not.

    • I am not in favour of the dam, but I am really annoyed by the anti-dam ideological, anti science figures being raised. You don’t need to make shit up or start raising dodgy numbers, just the same as anti-climate change movement, its called cherry picking.

      4% of the catchment, but how much % of rainfall does this catchment take in? a lot more than 4%, did you see rocky creek this flood ? it rains a lot more in nightcap than it does down in the lower catchment.

  4. Grow up Ben Franklin! Your public role is that of Representative for the voting public NOT ADVOCATE FOR DAMS. I am sure you are mature enough to approach the Indigenous Custodians and listen to their concerns. Take a leaf out of David Shoebridge’s book. As a Green Public advocate he was the most brilliant and caring advocate of First Nation people. Your deep friendship with former Green Mayor, Simon Richardson did not hinder you in any way when developing and destroying Wetlands in Byron in order to create a Bypass and aid flood waters in the township of Byron.

    Come to think of it. Do something radical. Demand that the NSW Govt. hand back all Sacred sites to the First Nation People in the North. You would be considered a humane Hero.

  5. According to PJK MLCs and their ilk are “unrepresentative swill”. ie they are appointed by their political party, not directly elected. They will, therefore, only ever follow the party line to avoid being dropped from the ticket.

  6. Dams are not a reliable flood management tool. Due to months of rain preceding recent floods they would all have been full (most NSW dams were at about 98% full). Recently the spill over Waragamba dam was about twice the dams capacity, so even only some use IF they were kept half empty (but we could have had a following drought rather than floods). And if govts cant organise infrastructure without destroying Aboriginal religious and Cultural heritage sites then they shouldnt be in government.


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