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Byron Shire
July 19, 2024

Residents face being cut from Mullum’s water 

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Dozens of Mullumbimby residents located close to the town’s local water source at Lavertys Gap Weir in Wilsons Creek are uniting against a recommendation by Byron Shire Council staff to disconnect the town’s local water supply.

Under plans presented recently, options were tabled for the future water supply for the town. 

Staff support a consultant’s view to instead use bulk water supplier, Rous, which sources its water mainly from Rocky Creek Dam near Lismore.

Residents approached The Echo to say they discovered Council’s plan was to remove their access to the potable water supply, without any notification or proper consultation. 

Website launched

In response, they have launched www.wilsonswaterrights.com.au in an effort to garner public support.

More than 30 affected residents say their properties are at the bottom of Wilsons Creek and some areas of Mullumbimby Creek, and they were only told they will likely be cut off from town water after questioning Council staff about the Mullumbimby Water Supply Strategy. 

Spokesperson for the Wilsons Water Rights Action Group (WWR) Mel Macpherson said she was shocked to find out from a neighbour about Council’s plans to remove their connection to town water without any direct written or verbal communication. 

‘One would think the appropriate action for Byron Shire Council would be to talk to us individually, and let us know that their preferred water strategy means cutting us off – for the 30 residents this has drastic ramifications, we have a right to know.

‘I honestly feel the communication from Byron Council has not been acceptable at all. This decision directly affects our health, businesses, infrastructure and property values. Relying on us to scan social media or listen to the radio to find out we are getting cut off has left me baffled. 

‘I only found out because my neighbour who has lived here for 90 years told me, and knew the history of the weir and local infrastructure, and noticed this in the water strategy plans. 

Water tanks offered

‘While Council staff have now offered to install a water tank, we all know that isn’t an adequate supply for most houses, let alone most of our group, who rely on agriculture as their livelihood.’

Chair of WWR, Raymond Musgrave, who says his family have farmed at Wilsons Creek for generations, said it was an outrage Council could consider cutting off water access without talking to residents first. 

‘If you do the math, Council could keep us connected to town water, under any of the four proposed scenarios, probably for the same cost as installing tanks, guttering, and UV filtration at all our properties. Funnily enough, even the cost of laying a few kilometres of new piping to keep us connected would be a heck of a lot cheaper than the huge fees they would be paying for outrageously expensive external consultants on the water strategy project. 

‘While Byron Shire Council’s “Have Your Say” on the Mullumbimby Water Supply Strategy is now closed, the WWR  is urging all residents  to help all residents of Mullumbimby keep their town water supply. 

‘You can do this by writing to your local councillor, writing a letter to The Echo, and attending the Council meeting on August 15’. 

Council’s Manager Utilities, Cameron Clark, told The Echo, ‘Council has acknowledged the concerns of the owners of 13 properties connected to the water trunk main at Laverty’s Gap, and their desire for their current water supply arrangement to remain unchanged in the future’. 

Council staff reply

The existing water connections for those 13 properties are affected under all scenarios Council must consider for securing Mullumbimby’s future water supply, including ongoing use of Lavertys Gap Weir.

‘At a Council information session on June 26, residents were advised that no decision has been taken on those water connections, and that options for future water supply will be shaped by Council’s decision on the water supply for the entire town of Mullumbimby. 

‘Council’s current water connection policy does not permit properties to be connected to water supply trunk mains and Council is required to ensure future water supplies for all properties comply with current regulations and policy.

‘Potential options for the 13 properties include supply of water from the Mullumbimby reservoirs, from a new water treatment plant under a local supply scenario, rainwater tanks or other options. 

‘These options will be assessed in consultation with affected properties in the ongoing work to secure Mullumbimby’s water supply to 2050 and beyond’, said Mr Clark.

Visit www.wilsonswaterrights.com.au to support the residents’ campaign.

 See the letters pages during the week for more.

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