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February 5, 2023

Tweed Council secures environmental water sharing during drought

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Two items at last week’s Tweed Shire Council meeting highlighted the commitment of the council to sharing water with the environment even during low-flow and drought periods. 

Mayor Chris Cherry and Coucillor Dr Nola Firth were the mover and seconder for two alternative motions that amended staff reports and submissions that sought to ‘remove the requirement for environmental flows in times of low flow and drought’.

In item 14.1. Draft Tweed River Area Unregulated and Alluvial Water Sharing Plan 2023 and item 14.2. Draft Regional Water Strategy – Far North Coast Shortlisted Actions – Consultation Paper, the commitment to water sharing with the environment was strengthened. 

‘Environmental flows are incredibly important,’ explained Cr Cherry. 

‘The regional water strategy, the NSW fish passage strategy, the NSW Natural Resources Commission Audit (NRCA) all recognise the importance of environmental flows and how important they are to offset some of the impacts we have when we dam a natural water system. 

‘I recognise that it is incredibly important that we as water supply operators need to try and protect and make sure we have a safe and secure water supply. But we have dual responsibility in this issue. We also have the responsibility to protect the environment.’

Cr Firth highlighted the importance of the water to fish passage and fish refuges.

‘The NRCA has recommended that low flow care be given to the the Bray Park fish passage and to the Clarrie Hall fish refuge,’ she said.

‘The NSW fish passage strategy that is about to happen to halt the decline of rivers in NSW mentioned the fish passage of Bray Park. There is also encouragement of dams to have a small pipe. 

‘We are in a place of high environmental significane. We need to be leaders in this.’

The alternative motion for 14.1 also sought to designate the minister as the authority who would be able to seek that the environmental flows be halted rather than the Tweed water authority. Cr Warren Polglase questioned why the council would remove their won authority to determine this and Cr Cherry responded saying that it ‘adds another level of control’ interms of environmental water management. 

The motion was passed 6-1 with Cr Polglase voting against the motion. 

The alternative motion for item 14.2 again sought to remove ‘the paragraph that expresses the desire not have to do environmental flows in low flow and drought periods,’ said Cr Cherry. 

Photo Mick Stanic www.flickr.com/photos/splatt

Water quality

The alternative motion also sought to strengthen a number of points around the fact that the council did not support any new commercial water extraction and bottling in the Tweed Shire and that they should also seek further powers to manage waterways in the Tweed. 

There were ‘strong points in submission,’ said Cr Cherry in praise of the staff’s work. 

‘There is a very strong point made in the submission that Council, even as a water supply operator, has no authority to restrict cattle movement out of the river – to fence it or require revegetation to protect the quality of the water supply. 

‘Council is asking to have an action that gives the water supply authority to protect water quality along river banks. We spend a lot of money in the treatment of water and this could reduce the cost we have in that area.’

Cr Cherry also sought stronger action on recycled water in the region seeking to implement rather than just investigate the options for recycled water uses. 

‘One of the actions in the actions plan is to investigate a recycled water plan for the far north coast. I am proposing that we ask to write and implement one. Time is of the essence we do need to take some direct action against the climate change extended drought periods that we have. The use of recycled water across our region is something we can do in terms of what and where in a safe and acceptable way for the community,’ she said

Regenerative land management

Crs Cherry and Firth also highlighted the value and importance of regenerative landscape management (RLM) 

‘As per recommendation 27 in Independent Flood Enquiry – it was talking about how RLM can be used to ensure the ground holds more water in drought times and slowing that water down in flood time,’ Cr Cherry explained. 

‘It is something the state government has indicated that they will take on board that recommendation and are happy to look at implementing. It is important that it gets translate into our regional water strategy.’

These additions were accepted unanimously by all councillors.

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