FRUSTRATION: Uki residents gather on the streets to protest against water extraction.
FRUSTRATION: Uki residents gather on the streets to protest against water extraction. Contributed

NSW Government will review water extraction industry

PROTESTERS against water extraction are calling for the NSW Government to expand its independent investigation into the impacts the water bottling industry is having on groundwater sources.

Minister for Regional Water Niall Blair announced on Tuesday the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer would provide advice on the sustainable groundwater extraction limits in the Northern Rivers region of NSW, as well as advice on whether the current or proposed groundwater monitoring bores are sufficient.

The decision to launch the review followed cross-party support for further investigation into the impact of water extraction after Northern Rivers residents continued to protest against an increasing number of extraction facilities in the region.

Lismore MP Thomas George said the independent review would provide the government with a better understanding of the industry and its potential environmental impacts.

"This review is not about stopping groundwater extraction, which we know is very important to landholders who rely on groundwater for stock and domestic purposes,” he said.

"I asked Minister Blair to commission the review so that we have a better understanding of what groundwater extraction for water bottling means for the long-term viability of the water table.”

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However, Tweed Water Alliance spokesman Trevor White said the community wanted further investigation into the wide-reaching impacts of the industry, including monitoring and truck movements.

"This is certainly a step in the right direction,” he said.

"The inquiry means water mining is a state election issue. Our fear is that the inquiry will be hijacked by vested interests. The inquiry is looking only at the sustainability of the water-mining industry.

"It lacks substance because of its narrow focus.

"The attendant lack of monitoring, truck movements, bottling in plastic and subsequent plastic pollution are all major areas of concern that have been ignored in the inquiry's terms of reference.

"The Tweed Water Alliance has always supported the use of groundwater for agricultural and domestic purposes.

"We have always opposed the extraction of water for private commercial gain.

"The solution is simple - stop the extraction of water for the bottled water industry.”

The Chief Scientist and Engineer is expected to provide his initial report by early February 2019, with a final report by mid-2019.