Council votes to halt water mining
TWEED Shire Council will demand the NSW Government suspends commercial water extraction and bottling in the drought-stricken region - despite concerns "these people could go out of business".
The issue was decided in a fiery council meeting at Tweed Heads on Thursday night.
Mayor Katie Milne moved that the council write to NSW Minister for Water, Melinda Pavey to request the temporary suspension of licences during the ongoing drought.
Councillors Milne, Ron Cooper and Deputy Mayor Chris Cherry voted for the suspension, while councillors Warren Polglase, James Owen and Pryce Allsop voted against.
The motion passed on the casting vote of the mayor, with Councillor Reece Byrnes absent during the meeting.
Cr Milne said "there's a lot of angst in the community about water extraction" and ratepayers were "really distraught".
She said creeks in the Tweed were at "low or no flow" and there's "so much doubt about what's going on underground".
"It's really full on," she said.
The Mayor's bid to temporarily halt extraction comes as the final report on water mining by the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer sits on the desk of the Minister.
Councillors Polglase and Owen said the long-awaited report will be released in coming days and provide clarity on the industry's impact on groundwater, which they assert is minimal.
Cr Owen argued in the chamber that water miners in the Tweed were essentially "extracting a thimble from the Pacific Ocean".
He said the Minister would never suspend licenses and was concerned "these people could go out of business".
"I don't believe (the Minister) will have a bar of this," Cr Owen said.
Cr Polglase also worried "we're going to put people out of jobs" and said the minister would be committing "political suicide" by suspending licenses.
Concerned about potential legal troubles, Cr Allsop said the suspension of licenses would "pull the rug out from under them and kick them down the stairs".
Cr Milne said licenses should be suspended until the drought has ended and suggested opposing councillors were putting the interests of a handful of operators above the community and environment.
In August, the council voted to ban any new water extraction and bottling facilities.