There are concerns about plans for a water extraction operation on the Alstonville plateau.
There are concerns about plans for a water extraction operation on the Alstonville plateau.

Opposition over plans for Alstonville water extraction plant

A PROPOSED 100 megalitre per year water extraction operation on the Alstonville plateau is encountering a wave of local opposition.

The development application from planners Ardill Payne & Partners to construct a water supply system on Ellis Rd, Rous, was lodged with Ballina Shire Council on September 26.

The operation would extract 100 million litres each year, trucking it elsewhere for bottling.

Ellis Rd avocado farmer Michael Hogan said the operation was a "tarted up" industrial venture and should not be allowed.

"The application is plain and simply for the mining of water, which is an industrial function and has no bearing on farmland activity," Mr Hogan wrote in his submission to the council.

Mr Hogan said there were two major concerns: road safety on Ellis Rd, and the ongoing availability of water to local farmers.

He said his bore already went dry in spring and early summer, when local farms including blueberries, avocadoes, limes and macadamias were relying it on it intensively.

"You can't do anything about it, you've got to wait for it to replenish," he said.

Peter King, a fourth generation cattle farmer on Ellis Rd, said his family had farmed his property since 1902 and during dry periods had run out of water.

"For the last 10 years we've had good springs here. But if we have to buy water for the cattle, it makes the farm unviable."

"It's a concern next time we have a dry period here."

'No impact'

Proponent Tim Carey, who also runs a blueberry farm on the property where the water supply plant is proposed, said neighbours' bores would be unaffected by the operation.

"We've done quite an extensive hydrological study, we pumped the bores there on the property for the period that the NSW Water Authority requested, and we monitored the impact on neighbouring water supplies and there was no draw down whatsoever."

"Our expert advice is that we're taking the water from a deep rock aquifer... the evidence is quite clear that it's a sustainable rate that we're proposing.

He said the blueberry farm on the property would continue and part of the development application was the construction of an amenities shed which would be used by blueberry pickers.

"We consider it a very sustainable long-term operation in the area.

Mr Carey said there would be up to an average of six truckloads a day along Ellis Rd.

"The 19m tankers are designed as a rural transport vehicle to truck milk... and are allowed on any rural road," he said.

"In terms of traffic, we've got road reports we've put in with our submission, that's up to council to assess whether it's appropriate and that's why we're going through the process."

Road concerns

Mr Hogan said he remained concerned about safety issues on Ellis Rd, noting that there had been two deaths on the road since he had lived there.

"The road is a rural road, and is showing signs of fatigue, collapse and peeling of surface," he wrote in his submission.

"Council have recently had to make good sections that have failed under the present usage."

Ballina Shire Council planner Matt Wood said the development application was fresh and "at this stage the council hasn't formed a view about it".

The application went on exhibition on October 17, and the exhibition period will be extended to November 16.

Mr Wood said the NSW Office of Water would be consulted in the review process for advice on the water extraction proposal.

"They do have a licence, the question we need from the Office of Water is is that licence adequate for what they want to do."

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