Troubled water


REPERCUSSIONS from last week's majority council decision to toss aside an agreement with the 13 councils who comprise SEQ Water and go it alone, would be deep and long, according to council's water supply spokesperson, Cr Daphne McDonald.

Speaking to the Mail this week, Cr McDonald said she was shocked and angered by the decision to withdraw from the SEQ water restriction regime - a scheme adopted in a bid to conserve water in the big supply source Wivenhoe Dam at a time of drought.

"Led by Mayor Ron Clarke it was a decision made on the run, and council has found in the past that a made-on-the-run decision can come back to bite," she said.

"Changing our watering hours back to 4pm, without any discussions with our neighbouring councils, some of which are in dire straits with water supply, shows us as unco-operative. It was an irresponsible decision, one that could give ammunition to the state government to take over south-east Queensland water supply.

Cr McDonald said the council's income from the sale of water amounted to $80 million which offset the general rate. If the state government took over the water supply, which it could legally do, ratepayers would be asked to contribute to the shortfall.

"Our lack of co-operation has opened the door for such an eventual takeover, affecting not only the Gold Coast's revenue, but revenue of all our neighbouring councils," Cr McDonald said.

ON the Gold Coast, permitted hours of watering are now from 4pm to 7am on allocated days.

Mayor Clarke introduced his motion for change back to daylight hours out of concern to the elderly and disabled who could face danger from a fall in the dark.

At a previous meeting only days before the breakaway, council had called on Gold Coast Water director Shaun Cox to prepare a report on how to best implement hosing exemptions for the aged or disabled to hose in daylight.

Mr Cox duly presented the report in detail, but recommended that due to changing weather patterns and possible changes in restrictions, the exemption policy should be deferred ? more time was needed to get it right.

As it turned out the report was a waste of time, because there and then Mayor Clarke announced his recommendation and called for support for back to 4pm, for all.

He cited Redland Shire as a trigger for his move. That shire had already broken away and returned to watering by day.

However, Mr Cox reminded council that Redland did not utilise the Wivenhoe Dam. Its water source was from North Stradbroke, underground.

Cr McDonald was unable to attend last week's full council meeting, but was fully briefed on what transpired.

Had she been there, the decision which caused so much ire from other mayors, may have been different.

For more than a decade Cr McDonald

has been the voice and the educator in the community and schools of the need to treat water conservation as a way of life.

As a long-serving member of the Local Government Association including at executive level, she has worked tirelessly to remove the unfortunate image the Gold Coast acquired from the days of the so-called "white shoe brigade".

Now her work could be down the drain.

Cr McDonald said she is incensed there was no consultation with council's standing committees' chairpersons prior to the mayor's shock announcement ? she certainly was extended no such courtesy, even though she is the water sustainability committee chair.

"Let there be no doubt in anyone's mind, especially in the minds of the elderly and disabled, that Gold Coast Water along with myself would have devised an easier system for those eligible, when rainfall and restriction levels were assessed thoroughly," she said.

A stickler for protocol, Cr McDonald said Gold Coast had made big efforts to get co-operation from other local councils on the drought issue.

"We are all part of Queensland, no-one in authority can stand alone, for always. We have achieved teamwork through the SEQ Water Strategy now, without proper discussion and debate it's blown away and I am disgusted at the way such an ill-advised decision has brought us such disregard," she said.

Those few who voted to reject the mayor's recommendation to go it alone were councillors David Power, Grant Pforr, Rod Molheok, Dawn Crichlow and Susie Souglas.

In a lighter vein during the water discussion, Cr Dawn Crichlow said no sensible person ever went out in the garden at 4pm because that was the time of the mossies who descended en masse to find sweet flesh to nibble.

"Elderly people I know get up early to hose their gardens. From 4pm, it's quickly inside for protection," she said.

Cr Crichlow's argument was given short shrift by Mayor Clarke who ordered her, on several occasions, to sit down.

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