By YVONNE McLEAN
THE Gold Coast could go it alone on watering hours in response to a resident backlash to restrictions, and in defiance of a drought strategy established with 11 other south-east Queensland local authorities.
The ability of the authorities to work co-operatively as a team over the critical issue of water restrictions was put to the test at a meeting of all the mayors this week.
Responding to a flood of residents' protests over the mandatory 7pm to 7am watering hours introduced earlier this month, the Gold Coast City Council authorised Mayor Ron Clarke to seek his mayoral colleagues' approval for drastic changes in times to 4pm to 8pm and from 4am until 8am - based on the usual odds and evens street numbers.
Details of that meeting and the likely revision of the existing hosing hours will be revealed by Mayor Ron Clarke at next Monday's full council meeting.
Mayor Clarke, who supports the time change, said many elderly people were confronting immense difficulties in watering their gardens after dark - there was the danger of them tripping over, and also being attacked by mosquitoes and midges. He believed other local authorities faced similar opposition.
The watering change was put to council at last week's full meeting by Cr Ted Shepherd who with other councillors had been continually pressed by residents to seek some daylight hours in the watering restrictions.
"The South East Queensland Regional Drought Strategy, now at level two, will surely approve a more reasonable system of garden hosing," he said.
"The 4pm to 8pm and 4am to 8am is clear and concise for all to understand and will have little if any impact on water conservation," he said.
Council's water supply spokesperson, Cr Daphne McDonald, who represents council on several local government committees, said the 7pm to 7am hours were driven by the Brisbane and Logan mayors and bureaucrats.
"Lord Mayor Newman's criticism of our bid to revise the watering hours is absolutely unjustified," she said.
"We (Gold Coast City Council) are acknowledged as leaders in water conservation tactics, and many of our initiatives in promoting water saving measures have been adopted by the south-east Queensland Water Authority. Our residents know all about drought and saving every drop. Our suggested time change is reasonable and lacks confusion," she said.
However in response to Mayor Clarke's tentative remark that the Gold Coast could conceivably go it alone if neighbours refused to consider a change to the present hours, Cr McDonald said teamwork was of the essence and a joint water strategy must have the backing of all authorities.
Gold Coast Water director, Shaun Cox warned of real confusion if the Gold Coast adopted hours different from the rest.
He said promotion of water conservation and advertising of different times would bewilder consumers. If neighbouring councils stick to the present argument, any move by Gold Coast to go it alone is certain to spark an angry debate next Monday.