COUNCIL UPDATE: Five things we learned from SDRC this week
WATER was front of mind for the Southern Downs Regional Council this week, as councillors butted heads over what to do with Emu Swamp Dam.
Over the course of two meetings, tentative plans were put in place to progress with the major project, in hopes of improving water security across the region.
Here is what we learned from the past seven days, with links to the original stories.
Progress was made “in principle” for council water access at Emu Swamp Dam after a tense special meeting of the SDRC this week.
Councillors Andrew Gale, Ross Bartley, Cynthia McDonald and Stephen Tancred voted in favour of the motion to support the investment and reallocation of water from Storm King Dam to Emu Swamp Dam, conditional upon further information.
“We are a community without water, and there’s no rain coming,” Cr McDonald said.
“We need to do what we were put here for, and start working on a resolution.”
Several important details regarding water allocation, transportation, and finances remained unclear, creating a divide between the councillors.
Councillors backed a proposal by the Granite Belt Irrigation Project (GBIP), which would see an increase in council’s operational capacity, enabling “necessary approvals to be co-ordinated and delivered within the project’s timelines”.
The council’s endorsement for GBIP to seek an Infrastructure Designation under the Planning Act would result in a streamlined whole-of-government response.
Councillor for water Stephen Tancred said the designation was the “most appropriate option” for the proposal against the Planning Act.
“Council plays an important role in the overall process of bringing Emu Swamp Dam to fruition,” he said.
TIME is running out for Storm King Dam, as the Queensland Government’s six-month commitment to cart water from Warwick to Stanthorpe nears its end.
Since full carting began in January, the dam has failed to receive any significant inflows and remains at a concerning 17.5 per cent.
The $800,000 agreement between the State Government and the Southern Downs Regional Council was scheduled for six months, or until the dam received a six-month supply of water.
The dilemma prompted councillor Jo McNally to question the council’s water contingency plan during the SDRC meeting this week.
“What happens when the funding lapses?” she asked.
“(Can) that be extended if needed?”
There could be an opportunity to renegotiate, according to SDRC director of infrastructure services Seren McKenzie.
Maryvale is moving ahead after rumours of contaminated soil at the historic railway reserve were finally laid to rest.
An offhand comment about a cattle dip, where farmers used arsenic to control ticks, sparked a complex and “resource-hungry” undertaking that took “six or seven years” to resolve, according to Southern Downs Mayor Vic Pennisi.
The site was removed from the Environmental Management Register on June 19, after a lengthy investigation process which cost the Southern Downs Regional Council around $100,000 in consultants and contractors.
“Every journey begins with the first step,” Cr Pennisi said.
“You can start off having hair, and by the end you’ve (become) so old it’s fallen out, or you’ve torn it out along the way.”
Funding secured for regional events strategy
More than $20,000 will be spent on a comprehensive events strategy for the Southern Downs, after funding was secured through a successful submission to the Building Better Regions program.
According to a spokeswoman from the SDRC, the additional cash will pay for professional contractors to “carefully map the future of events”.
“The aim of the strategy is to assist and future-proof existing events, attract a diverse range of events to the region and develop new events to drive tourism to provide an economic boost to local businesses,” she said.
President of the Stanthorpe Apple and Grape Harvest Festival 2020 Max Hunter said an events strategy was highly beneficial for regional areas and their events.
“A solid strategy can help identify the potential viability of future events, their sustainability into the future and succession planning,” he said.