A possible Dunoon Dam will take at least nine years to build, so underground water could keep the region hydrated until then.
A possible Dunoon Dam will take at least nine years to build, so underground water could keep the region hydrated until then.

Dam ‘could end up a Lismore vs Ballina issue’

Supplying the Northern Rivers with underground water from Alstonville instead of building the Dunoon Dam could become a contentious ‘Lismore vs Ballina’ issue, according to two former Rous chairs.

Former Ballina mayor and former Rous chair, Phillip Silver, is worried the Alstonville Plateau does not hold enough underground water to serve the four LGAs involved Ballina, Byron, Lismore and Richmond Valley.

“Staff have already told Rous councillors that groundwater cannot do the job, both in quality and quantity, and that information is public,” he said.

A 3D version of what a possible Dunoon Dam would look like is available from the Rous County Council website.
A 3D version of what a possible Dunoon Dam would look like is available from the Rous County Council website.

“In our area, we don’t want to become parochial.

“The community was recently united against a proposal to mine 70ML of water in the area, but this idea would mean five-and-a-half thousand megalitres mined per annum from that same area.”

Former Rous chair and former Ballina councillor Sue Meehan agreed with Mr Silver on the need for the dam to go ahead.

“When I was at Rous, we looked for the most cost-efficient, environmentally-sensitive way of producing the water that we need, because we had a report that showed that demand would exceed supply by 2030,” she said.

Sue Meehan.
Sue Meehan.

“All options have to be on the table in the long run.

“I just don’t think that water security is negotiable, it is not, we’ve got to have it.

“But we have to make it efficient, because the idea of demand management — which basically means just putting the price up — is very hard.

“Ballina spent $45 million in our recycled water scheme, but I don’t see that done in other LGAs.”

Read more>> Traditional owners on Dunoon Dam: ‘enough is enough’

Both Mr Silver and Mrs Meehan acknowledged that cultural issues with the site, and environmental considerations, were valid objections to the project.

Former Ballina mayor Phillip Silver. Photo Jay Cronan
Former Ballina mayor Phillip Silver. Photo Jay Cronan

Mr Silver reminded current Rous councillors of their duty.

“I was astonished that the dam was voted out of the plan. The councillors’ primary responsibility is (ensure the area has) safe and secure urban water,” he said.

‘When issues arise, their job is to negotiate the proper outcome, not just walk away from it.

“If we have a majority of Rous councillors who are fundamentally and politically opposed to dams, then we have a problem because, essentially, we have to store water.”

Mrs Meehan said current councillors have an opportunity to address Aboriginal heritage and environmental consequences of a proposed dam.

“There are also non indigenous heritage issues with that site also,” she said.

“This is very sensitive and Aboriginal people live here too, all voices need to be heard.”

Rous County Council will discuss a rescission motion to bring the Dunoon Dam back to the area’s water strategy in its February meeting.



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