Ballina councillors in war of words over mega dam plan
A WAR OF words erupted at Ballina Shire Council meeting over the idea of building a 50 gigalitre dam in Dunoon.
It's not every day Ballina councillors argue over a project that could happen in the Lismore LGA.
Councillors discussed a motion to transfer ownership of the Marom Creek Water Treatment Plant from Ballina Council to Rous County Council.
As part of Rous' Future Water Project 2060, the plant will be upgraded to expand the existing groundwater bore network, and supply the Northern Rivers with extra water while the dam is built, as full construction is expected to take around 10 years.
Cr Jeff Johnson disagreed and expressed his doubts over the dam idea.
"I don't support the Dunoon dam proposal," he said.
"I don't like the urgency that this motion and the Rous strategy is trying to bring to the debate, giving the community not long to assess an 80-year infrastructure project that doesn't have funding."
Cr Johnson also put in question the water demand projected by Rous County Council on its long term strategy.
"I question the figures that have been used to determine the need for the 50 gigalitre dam in Dunoon," he said.
Cr Johnson said reuse of water had to be the main focus of the long-term water strategy in this area.
Cr Nathan Willis disagreed with Cr Johnson's opinion.
"In terms of the politicisation of water policy, what our community wants is a moderate approach, they don't want us to be debating because we have a big picture idea that we are able to harness people's imagination either for or against things," he said.
"I think what they wants us to do is ensure that when they turn their tap on to have a shower, water comes out."
Cr Phillip Meehan added to the debate by supporting the idea of the dam.
"I can't agree with statements which question Rous' urgency to do something about water supply. I can't accept statements that question figures that lead to this conclusion that we need urgent action," he said.
"I don't believe we should be question the work that Rous has done.
"I do support the construction of the dam. I do not support trying to use water as a way of limiting growth in our region.
"That is going to be one of the arguments that we will see coming out about the dam, besides environmental aspects."
Cr Keith Williams, who is also the chair of Rous County Council, said Ballina only produced (via Emigrant Creek dam) 10 per cent of the water it uses monthly.
"We need to secure more water for this region, there is no doubt about that," he said.
"To my colleagues unsure about the dam I say, well, we need another 10 years to see how can we avoid it."