SDRC approves plan to truck water to Gold Coast
MORE than 95ML of potable bore water will be carted out of the drought-affected Southern Downs region every year, after council approved a new water extraction and distribution facility in Elbow Valley.
The development application by the Joyful View Garden Real Estate Company proposed the construction of a filter system and water storage tanks on the northeastern portion of the Cherrabah property.
Water will be extracted seven days a week, collected in two water tankers and delivered via four daily truck movements to a bottling facility on the Gold Coast.
Councillor Yve Stocks, who voted against the development, said it was an "ironic" choice.
"On the one hand we are carting water into the region, included donated water," Cr Stocks said.
"But on the other, this allows precious groundwater to be trucked outside of the region.
"I cannot support it because I feel it would be irresponsible at this time."
Cr Stocks' objection echoed submissions by neighbouring farmers, who voiced concern for their dwindling water supply.
These Elbow Valley residents said their water availability has been seriously eroded as a "direct" result of the water capture facilities within the Cherrabah Resort.
These concerns were dismissed because the extraction plant plans to take water from a fractured rock aquifer which is not connected to the overlying alluvial and perched water tables accessed by local rural industries.
A groundwater abstraction assessment also concluded neighbouring farms relied on springs and shallow wells for their stock water supply, so "there will be no impact on water availability."
"I am sceptical to say the least," Cr Stocks said.
"There is no hard evidence it is sustainable and there seems to be a fair bit of guesswork."
Councillors Cameron Gow and Vic Pennisi joined Cr Stocks in voting against the motion.
"There's a responsibility on council to consider the application in the sense of the impact it has on our wider region," Cr Gow said.
"We have to consider what the community voted us to sit around this table for in relation to things that will affect them."
Councillors Jo McNally, Rod Kelly, Neil Meiklejohn, Sheryl Windle and Mayor Tracy Dobie voted in favour of the project, allowing it to pass onto the next stage of development.
Cr McNally argued it was unfair to single out and deny the business because private water sales "happen every day."
"Water is already being sold outside the region, it happens everywhere," she said.
"As landholders they are entitled to apply for this and it is within the guidelines to grant an approval."
Cr Meiklejohn explained that, because the State Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy had already issued Joyful View with a water license for 96ML/year until June 2111, council was merely voting to allow the movement of trucks within the region.
"The decision (about water extraction) has been made and council doesn't have the power to alter that," Cr Meiklejohn said.
"The bore will be metered and monitoring will be done by the department for that water license.
"There are checks and balances in place."
But Cr Gow argued it may be council's responsibility to stand up for the drought-stricken region.
"I feel duty bound to the people who voted us here," he said.
"Water is an extremely valuable commodity."
The Joyful View Garden Real Estate Company declined to comment.