Councillors lock horns over water donation to sports club
Southern Downs councillors have locked horns over a proposal to allocate millions of litres of water to a Warwick sporting organisation in the lead-up to a major event.
The Warwick Polocrosse Club lodged a request with Southern Downs Regional Council for 5ML of raw water to water the fields at their Morgan Park facility, ahead of the Barastoc Interstate Series in April.
Presented to the council at last Wednesday’s ordinary meeting, the proposal indicated SDRC would give the organisation a 50 per cent discount due to the competition’s anticipated tourism boost.
The water would be taken from Connolly Dam at an approximate cost of $500 per megalitre, and only if the Polocrosse Club required it.
Councillor Cameron Gow was one of the most vocal in favour of the request, contending the tourism benefits would outweigh any costs of the water.
“If Warwick Polocrosse can’t access this water, it’s potentially another event cancelled so people won’t visit our region, which flows onto our tourism operators,” Cr Gow said.
He was met with fierce opposition by councillors Andrew Gale, Ross Bartley, and Stephen Tancred, who all agreed the region’s drought status was too “desperate” to offer extra water to a sporting organisation.
“I cannot, in the current dire circumstances we find ourselves, to allow the use of any water that is capable of being treated to a drinking standard to be utilised for watering grass,” Cr Gale agreed.
Mayor Vic Pennisi also vouched for the water allocation, but urged council staff to also prioritise extending a direct effluent water supply to the Morgan Park facility.
The request was eventually approved with opposition from Cr Gale, Bartley, and Tancred.
The decision came as a relief for Polocrosse Club president Les Fraser, who said a refusal combined with a potential dry season could have seen the event cancelled.
“We appreciate the position the council is in. We applied for 10ML and they came back to us and said we can have 5ML, which will give us the chance if it does set in dry – we hope it doesn’t but it isn’t looking good,” Mr Fraser said.
“We’d have had to make a decision in the next four to six weeks about whether it would go ahead, for animal welfare and spectators.
“I’ve said all the time that the likes of Warwick we need to have events here to prop up our tourism industry. The polocrosse, Jumpers and Jazz, the Warwick Show, the rodeo – we need events and they all add up.”