Not another study by consultants

THE residents of North Arm are gearing up for the fight of their lives.

A week after Nambucca Shire Council voted to spend $20,000 for consultants to revisit its 2007 decision to build an off-stream storage at Bowraville, the North Arm farmers and retirees are determined to stop their properties being inundated by a dam being considered for their area.

Given council has already spent a considerable amount of money on the Bowraville Dam, those at a protest meeting on Thursday were mystified about what was going on.

“It just doesn’t make any sense at all,” local farmer Alf Blakey said.

“In 2007 a consultant’s report which cost ratepayers $8000 ruled out an on-stream dam at either Gravelly Creek or League Creek, but three years later and having already spent $4 million on the $56 million Bowraville off-stream storage they want to waste another $20,000 on a desktop study,” he said.

“The consultants aren’t being required to talk to us or even visit the area. What a disgraceful waste of money from a council that is always crying poor.”

Were the consultants to negotiate the winding dirt road to Gravelly Creek, about 25 minutes west of Bowraville, they’d find a community passionately united in their opposition to the headquarters of the Nambucca River being dammed.

“This area is not called Gravelly Creek for nothing,” Peter Keogh, one of around 40 landholders facing down the spectre of their properties being flooded, said.

“The soil here is very rocky and farm dams regularly drain dry. I wouldn’t think it was an ideal location for an earth wall dam at all,” he said.

“When you add to that established scientific evidence that this area has very high environmental and conservation values, as well as being home to mapped high quality farmland, it beggars belief that even one cent is being spent on revisiting what we thought was a dead issue.”

Many at the roadside meeting also questioned how far the latest $20,000 desktop study would go to providing a thorough analysis of the cost benefits of an on-stream dam at Gravelly Creek.

“There are so many things that are not in the brief that has been given to the consultants that their report won’t be worth the paper it’s written on,” Mr Blakey said.

“Why aren’t they (the consultants) being asked to account for the cost of property acquisitions, for the cost of the pipeline to Bowraville, and the easements through hundreds of properties between here and there?

“What about the cost of upgrading the road to get the machinery in, the ongoing maintenance costs of a remote site, and the cost of delays due to civil disobedience and legal challenges from the community and individuals?”

Mr Blakey also wondered whether the consultants would consider the fact that the site of the dam wall is actually inaccessible during times of flood.

“We are angry about the lack of consultation and notification from Council,” he said.

“We are angry that ratepayer’s money is being wasted and we are angry that they are even re-visiting this issue when the State Government has made it clear it does not support on-stream storage dams.”

The meeting resolved to call and write letters of protest to the Council as well as State and Federal politicians.

”We will oppose this dam proposal by any and all means,” Mr Blakey said.

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