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State intervenes on Dunoon Dam

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The state government has waded into the Dunoon Dam issue after Rous County Council voted to take expansion of Dunoon Dam out of its water strategy plan.

Dunoon Dam map
Source: Rous County Council

Last week, Rous adopted a three-stage Future Water Project 2060 with groundwater front and centre for the project’s first two stages.

Councillors voted 5–3 to keep the Dunoon Dam out of the region’s future water strategy and instead tap into ground water aquifers in Alstonville and Tyagarah.

But with population in the region forecast to grow by 37% by 2060, NSW parliamentary secretary for Water Infrastructure Sam Farraway called on federal and state governments to work together to secure the long-term water needs of the Northern Rivers.

“The community feedback on the council’s strategy was overwhelmingly in favour of the Dunoon Dam project with more than 10,000 of the 13,000 submissions received supporting the dam being investigated as a future water project,” Mr Farraway said.

“It is outrageous that the majority of elected councillors have completely ignored the community consultation process and Rous County Council staff recommendations.”

He said this was why it was necessary for the State to undertake an independent study and include this in the Regional Water Strategy.

“This study will take the politics out of it and focus on the science,” Mr Farraway said.

State MP Chris Gulaptis said he was disappointed most Rous councillors ignored the wishes of the community.

“I acknowledge that desalination, recycling and extraction from the aquifers is an option, but so too is the dam,” Mr Gulaptis said.

Richmond Valley mayor Robert Mustow and councillor Sandra Humphrys voted to keep the dam option on the table.

“They (Rous) have treated these people (who made submissions) with contempt, with the chair Keith Williams referring to them as — ‘It’s a mob, not much more than a mob, I should say’.”

Mr Mustow said the matter was becoming urgent as demand for water was predicted to exceed supply by 2024.

Ms Humphrys said it was a “blatant show of arrogance” to ignore the results of the recent public submissions.

Community group Water Northern Rivers said far too little effort was put on water efficiency, innovation and exploration of modern reliable alternatives because the vague dam plans, sitting on a shelf, tended to give Rous a false sense of security.

That lesson seems to have been taken on board, Water Northern Rivers said. It was keen for Rous to develop fully resilient and far less rainfall-reliant alternatives.

WNR’s Jim Richardson said that “in relation to Widjabul Wia-bal heritage investigations, we will take our lead from the traditional owners and stand in solidarity with them”.

Tell us what you think is the best option for our future water supply. Email editor@richmondriverindependent.com

Richmond River Independent 28 July 2021

This article appeared in the Richmond River Independent, 28 July 2021.

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