NOT HAPPY: Protesters gather outside Tweed Shire Council oppose a development application proposing to commercially extract water from a Uki property.
NOT HAPPY: Protesters gather outside Tweed Shire Council oppose a development application proposing to commercially extract water from a Uki property. Aisling Brennan

Council won't stop water extraction, despite community plea

TWEED Shire Deputy Mayor Reece Byrnes has defended backflipping on his decision to amend the Local Environment Plan (LEP) to prohibit water extraction.

Council last week voted 4-3 to discontinue plans to ban water extraction and bottling within the RU2 Rural Landscape zone after it had received advice from the Department of Planning and Environment that the amendment didn't have "sufficient strategic justification” to be approved.

Councillor Byrnes, who originally supported the LEP changes, said the lack of "evidence” proving the impact of water extraction on the environment was enough for him to change his mind.

"As there is yet no evidence established by scientific fact, analysis or peer-review that indicate negative effects, council has determined not to further pursue what would be a costly undertaking of ratepayers money for the same end result,” Cr Byrnes said.

"That is, the State rejecting an LEP amendment.

"It is important to remember water extraction is permitted under state law and is licensed by the NSW State Government. Council involvement primarily looks at the road usage of tankers transporting water, not the extraction.”

But Tweed Water Alliance (TWA) spokesperson Jeremy Tager said the group, which opposes water extraction, was disappointed with Cr Byrnes' decision.

"When Cr Byrnes voted not to prohibit water mining, he voted for more water mines, more community conflicts and less water for residents with domestic and livestock needs,” Mr Tager said.

"He voted for the profit of a few at the expense of everyone else, including the natural systems dependent on groundwater. Council has demonstrated it can't manage, monitor or enforce the existing water mines.

"Every one of the currently approved operators has an ongoing history of breaches and non-compliance and council has a history of non-enforcement and what appears to be complicity in these lawless practices.”

Cr Byrnes has proposed council meet with TWA, the Office of Water, Department of Planning and Environment and Mount Warning Spring Water to discuss "potential options for improving the operational management of water extraction” and the "science of the water extraction”.

"I felt it was important given concerns raised by the TWA of DA breaches that we work constructively in a balanced matter with NSW Water, industry represent- atives and the TWA to find a sensible way forward.”

The recently reported comment from Councillor Reece Byrnes that Council doesn't have responsibility for water extraction is dead wrong - and Councillor Byrnes should know this, the Tweed Water Alliance said today.

But TWA spokesperson Trvor White said the group had provided legal advice to all councillors and council's solicitors more than a year ago explaining that "council must make an independent decision about extraction”.

"Councillor Byrnes ignorance might explain his appalling vote last week to no longer seek to prohibit water mining in the Shire but it is inexcusable,” Mr White said.

"He has not exercised even the most basic due diligence.

"One of the primary reasons water mining should be prohibited is because there is so little evidence and data about the effects of extraction on groundwater that council cannot be satisfied there are no adverse impacts.”