UNDER PRESSURE: Matthew Karlos has had a gutful of Tweed Shire Council after they ordered him to stop work on his water extraction business at Urliup.
UNDER PRESSURE: Matthew Karlos has had a gutful of Tweed Shire Council after they ordered him to stop work on his water extraction business at Urliup. Scott Powick

Council in hot water after secret decision to halt business

A DECISION made in secret to stop a water extraction facility from operating could be the start of Tweed Shire Council's undoing, warns Councillor Warren Polglase.

Council on Thursday approved a notice to stop the use of unapproved bores, water tanks and trucks at the Karlos family property on Urliup Rd, Urliup, where water extraction for commercial use has occurred since the early 2000s.

The last minute decision was supported four votes to three, after councillors received a confidential staff report about the on-going compliance investigations on the Urliup property.

The Karlos family is currently battling council in the Land and Environment Court (LEC) over a separate council decision to reject an application to increase the company's current use of 6m water transport trucks to the requested 19m trucks.

PROTEST: Water extraction protesters attend the Land and Environment Court site inspection of the Karlos property on Urliup Rd.
PROTEST: Water extraction protesters attend the Land and Environment Court site inspection of the Karlos property on Urliup Rd. Contributed

But Cr Polglase said he was worried council was heading in the wrong direction and could end up facing state government intervention, similar to the sacking of council in 2005.

"Considering the amount of noise that Karlos and other people are making about council decisions, this will end up in the Department of Local Government,” Cr Polglase said.

"It's the start of the end.

"We could see a dismissal of council or council losing planning powers. A lot of it has to do with planning issues. When I was mayor and council got dismissed (in 2005) it was by the work of a political power.

"Council is taking it upon themselves to overrule staff recommendations, landing us in the LEC. We've lost more cases than we've won.”

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While the case was heard in the LEC last week and a decision is expected to be handed down before Christmas, a spokesperson for the Karlos family, Graham Staerk, said council should have waited before issuing the stop use notice.

"The family have been fighting council for years and will continue to fight every attempt by a Green extreme majority (council) to shut it down,” Mr Staerk said.

"Spring water farming is legal. It's rude and prejudicial in the extreme for council to try to shut the business down when the court is determining matters on how it might operate.”

Mr Staerk said the unacceptable behaviour of council, and specifically Cr Reece Byrnes, was upsetting the Karlos family.

"This move by the mayor and Cr Byrnes disrespects his honour and the court process,” Mr Staerk said.

"We find it appalling that Cr Byrnes would support Jack Hallam's application (to extract 24ml of water annually at his Uki property) and not support the Karlos family.”

However, Cr Byrnes said he would continue to rely on the expertise of council staff when voting.

DECISIONS: Councillor Reece Byrne is facing backlash for a decision about water extraction.
DECISIONS: Councillor Reece Byrne is facing backlash for a decision about water extraction. SCOTT POWICK

"The number one difference between the Hallam application and the one before the courts is the staff recommendation and their findings on the road conditions,” he said.

"That's the primary reason I did not support their application.

"I'm on the record about my opinions with the science of water extraction and the jurisdiction from the state government but I also have to take into consideration the staff recommendations and vote in accordance.”

Cr Chris Cherry, who supported the stop use notice, said the business was still able to operate as long as it did so within the terms of the conditions set out in the original development application.

"The LEC case and the notice to stop work issues were two separate issues and that's why we dealt with this now,” Cr Cherry said.

"They've been issued with a notice to stop use and that's to stop using bores, tanks and trucks that weren't approved.

"Their response was that we should wait for the court case but it was deemed by our staff not to be relevant. This is just saying they can only stop using things that weren't approved for council.

"There's no point in having the rules unless you enforce them.”

Mr Staerk said the Karlos family will continue to operate until further notice.



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