Clarrie Hall Dam water catchment area.
Clarrie Hall Dam water catchment area. Contributed

Dam on the election agenda as Clarrie Hall stalls

IT’S Groundhog Day, as Tweed Shire’s water security is set to become an election issue yet again with a 2015 decision to raise the wall of Clarrie Hall Dam stalling in the chamber last week.

Despite a September 2015 resolution in line with a council staff recommendation to raise the Clarrie Hall Dam wall by 8.5m, at an estimated cost of $43.44 million, councillors last Thursday voted against engaging planners to go ahead with the job.

Instead, Greens Mayor Katie Milne used her casting vote to sink the bid, advocating for studies to research environmentally friendly, non-dam options to shore up the Tweed’s water supply.

By contrast, conservative Councillor Warren Polglase argued for a new dam to be built at Byrrill Creek, while Cr Barry Longland said a small Byrrill Creek Dam, at a cost of $54.35m or a large one at $81.86m, was not the preferred option after three independent studies found the site was home to 23 endangered species.

“The prospect of Byrrill Creek is a clear and present danger,” Cr Longland said.

“There is a risk that if our council can’t carry through with our decision to do the upgrade, there are people who will seek to have the State or Federal governments intervene.”

Cr Longland said Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, who visited the Tweed at least twice during the recent Federal Election campaign, was a fan of dams and could be lobbied.

But Cr Polglase, who was “not prepared to say at this stage” whether he’d lobbied government or not, said it was “unlikely” it would intervene anyway.

Cr Polglase said Byrrill Creek had more water capacity and cast doubt over the costings of raising the Clarrie Hall Dam wall, which necessitated the acquisition of nearby properties.

“There are several land acquisitions with 28 landholders adjoining the catchment and I don’t know how many are required,” Cr Polgalse said.

“We’ve been advised that’s been factored into all the costs and I’m not too sure if that’s been the case or not. When a council spends 60 minutes on a $215m budget there’s something wrong in this system.

“I think we should get a new council and find the appropriate dam.”

Cr Polglase was “not prepared to debate” whether landholders had been lobbying him due to commercial in confidence reasons, but Cr Longland said 27 had been co-operative, bar one Nationals Party member.

The meeting was one of the last before council enters into caretaker mode on August 12 ahead of the looming council elections on September 10.

Water security and a debate over whether to dam Byrrill Creek, where council purchased land several decades ago to prepare for such an eventuality, was a major issue at the 2012 poll.

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