Council asks NSW Government to review Dunoon Dam decision

RICHMOND Valley Council is asking the NSW Government to review Rous County Council’s planning processes following its shelving of the proposed Dunoon Dam, and complete the required investigations of the project independently.

In a mayoral minute passed unanimously by Council at last night’s meeting, Mayor Robert Mustow asked the ministers for Local Government and Water to assess whether the regional water authority had complied with its legislative responsibilities in regard to community consultation and decision-making processes around the dam project, as well as addressing of water security risk management.

At its extraordinary meeting on 21 July, Rous County Council voted 5-3 to adopt its revised Integrated Water Cycle Management (IWCM) strategy, which had removed the Dunoon Dam from its list of future options, despite a public petition of 10,208 signatures and an overwhelming number of submissions supporting further assessment of the project, and the recommendations of Rous County Council’s technical officers.

The IWCM proposes to source future water supplies from groundwater, desalination and potable re-use.

Richmond Valley Council delegates Cr Mustow and Cr Sandra Humphrys voted against the adoption of the revised strategy.

Cr Mustow said he and Cr Humphrys believed the shelving of the Dunoon Dam was not supported by the public and not in the best long-term interests of the Richmond Valley and Northern Rivers communities.

“Long-term water security is vital to the future of every community on the Far North Coast,” Cr Mustow said.

“In the Richmond Valley, we must ensure the Mid-Richmond communities continue to receive a safe, affordable drinking water supply and that the future of the Casino water supply is secured and be protected from a changing climate.”

Council is undertaking detailed studies into future options for the Casino supply, which would include potential connection to the Rous County Council system.

“The July decision from Rous County Council places that option at risk,” Cr Mustow said.

“The long-term direction to make the Mid-Richmond communities more heavily reliant on ground water supplies is also of concern and not supported by many in our community.”

Cr Mustow said he was concerned by the number of community members who had expressed their disappointment about the manner in which the decision was made.

He said in light of these community concerns, he had sought Council’s support to request a review of Rous County Council’s management of the IWCM process and the conduct of the July extraordinary meeting by the relevant ministers and their agencies.

“I believe this is the only way that we can reassure our community that  these important issues that are so vital to our future have been adequately addressed,” Cr Mustow said.

As recommended by the mayoral minute, Richmond Valley Council will also ask NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro and Water Minister Melinda Pavey to complete the relevant cultural heritage and biodiversity assessments associated with the Dunoon Dam, which were not completed by Rous County Council.

Cr Mustow emphasised that Richmond Valley Council was yet to form a position on the merits of the Dunoon Dam proposal.

However, he said Council always maintained the necessary investigations should be undertaken to allow an informed decision as to whether or not the dam should proceed.

“The July resolution ensures this work will not be carried out as part of the Future Water Project,” Cr Mustow said.

“That’s why I have sought Council’s support to approach the Deputy Premier and the Minister for Water to have the necessary studies completed as part of the Regional Water Strategy finalisation process, in consultation with the traditional custodians of the land.

“I believe this is the best way forward to achieve a transparent decision on behalf of our growing populations across the whole Northern Rivers community.”

Council will also support the calls by Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis and Parliamentary Secretary for Water Infrastructure Sam Farraway MLC for an independent study to investigate water storage and security, flood mitigation, river health and water quality in the area serviced by Rous County Council.

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