Mayor’s motion to stop water extraction denied

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A CONTROVERSIAL notice of motion from Mayor Katie Milne to potentially prohibit commercial water extraction from all rural zoned land across the Tweed Shire was knocked back at tonight’s Council Meeting, February 2, due to a amendment.

The notice of motion followed a large community debate around water security and future water use, with calls from many locals to regulate or in some views halt water extraction across the Tweed Shire.

One community access speaker, who said he was in current water extraction operations, spoke against the motion and in favour of expanding water extraction across the shire.

According to Council’s documentation, the proposal was to rescind Clause 7.15 of the Tweed LEP 2014, which came into effect on July 8, 2016, to remove the permissibility of water bottling facilities in the RU2 Rural Landscape zone.

“The LEP amendment originated and was funded by the Mountain Water Springwater Company (MWS); an established Tweed family business,” the report reads.

“The implications of the proposed prohibition on this land-use are likely to be far broader than those arising solely on MWS, as it will affect both current lawful businesses as well as landowners holding a current water access licence and who intend seeking development consent for a new business.

“On the spectrum of options for regulating land use, ‘prohibition’ marks the uttermost extent of undesirability for any given use; exempt development being at the opposite end with various regulatory pathways between the two.

“Ascertaining what level of regulation is appropriate in each situation therefore requires a full consideration of the facts and circumstances.

“As the circumstances surrounding the making of the permissibility in 2016 and proposed repeal of it 2017 are novel, and the impacts on those who had a legitimate expectation to act or have acted on the permissibility rule change remain to be fully tested, the proposed prohibition may expose Council, as with those landowners or businesses, to unnecessary and costly litigation.

“Council is evidently aware that landowners and businesses have relied on the 2016 regulatory rule change.

“It may be prudent therefore to allow adequate time for those persons or businesses to pursue their approvals as envisaged by the 2016 rule change and to close the loop on those who have not.

“This could be achieved through a different regulatory policy response, with the Department of Planning and Environment’s support.

“Clarity is also required if the intent of the Notice of Motion is just for water bottling or for all commercial water extraction activity including agriculture.”

Cr Milne said she heeded the warnings from residents and believed new water extraction operations should be denied.

“The road damage is enough for me but in regards there’s a lot of things said then later changed,” she said

“I do think that it is something we don’t have to engage in. There are a lot of current operations already going – I’m not trying to stop them.

“It’s the proliferation of the new applications. This shire is significant and it’s something we’re proud of.

“It was like coal seam gas mining and we’re fine now. And the community said it wasn’t what they wanted.

“This is something that’s optional to the Tweed Shire. The State Government had already banned this practice and this is a new council and the older council is no longer here. We need to respect this issue and listen to the community.

The amendment made by Cr Reece Byrnes:

Cr Reece Byrnes said he wanted to raise an amendment to maintain water extraction but to be presented the science by NSW Office of Water to fully understand underground water levels and refresh rates.

“I know people in the Office of Water and they say the water extraction is sustainable.”

Cr James Owen said he agreed with Cr Byrne and said he supported the amendment.

“I think we need more information before we make any rash decisions.”

Cr Ron Cooper said this issue is more than just about the right science.

“This is more about tourism and the road usage. We’re talking about large, very large tankers that will come down Urliup and Main Road before they make the turn off,” he said.

“There are ratepayers who have been told that we’re a council that’s fit for the future. I don’t think we can get an accurate damage report if these works are approves. It’s the ratepayers that will be wearing that. The ratepayer could prop up this industry.”

Cr Cooper said the amenity is at risk of creating a much more busy road and more dangerous roads.

“We might not control the science of water extraction.”

Cr Warren Polglase said it was simple to upgrade the roads to carry the trucks.

“You could charge the operator per tonne on the road, an opportunity for the Tweed Shire to provide growth and employment.”

Cr Chris Cherry on the other hand did not support the amendment.

“I do not support this amendment to support this plan. The philosophy that one person takes the resource and sells it off,” she said.

“The original was proposing to remove blanket approval of water extraction. This motion is clear to not affect licensed bores and current operations.”

Cr Pryce Allsop agreed that more scientific information is required.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with getting accurate science about water extraction,” he said.

“Roads are what get us our products and I think we need to support this.”

The ammendment was Carried four votes for Cr Byrnes, Cr Owen, Cr Polglase and Cr Allsop, against votes were Cr Milne, Cr Cherry and Cr Cooper.

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