Water fears: Cattleman Peter Keogh.
Water fears: Cattleman Peter Keogh.

Landholders call for impact data

ELBOW Valley cattleman Peter Keogh has lost sleep since he was notified a 200 mega litre water licence for neighbouring Cherrabah Homestead Resort had been formally approved.

But if his worst fears – and those of his fellow landholders – are confirmed he stands to lose more than shut eye.

“We could lose our livelihoods; we all rely on spring fed water for domestic and livestock use here,” Mr Keogh said.

“If just one user, in this case Cherrabah, has approval to draw this much water from the underground supplies, how will that impact on the rest of us?”

His concerns were reiterated by his neighbours at a gathering of landholders earlier this week.

All operate rural enterprises downstream from Cherrabah and all expressed fears the approval of a major increase in water allocation to Cherrabah could impact adversely on critical water quality and quantity.

Earlier this month the Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) approved an amendment of water licence application from Joyful View Garden Real Estate Development Resort Company which owns Cherrabah.

The approval grants the resort an increase from 25 mega litres per water year to 200 mega litres per year of underground water.

In real terms it means the Chinese-owned resort can proceed with development plans in the pipeline since 2005.

The plans to upgrade Cherrabah into a Royal Pines-style resort as well as develop 21 residential lots of the property have been on hold pending the securing of an adequate water supply.

Cherrabah did not return calls by the Daily News yesterday, however it is understood work has started on the housing blocks.

Yet for Elbow Valley landholder Liam O’Dea it is not the development, but the water allocation decision which remains the most pressing local issue.

“I am not opposed to development; but what I do oppose is one industry going ahead at the cost of another,” Mr O’Dea said.

“There is no benefit to the community in creating employment in one place, only to take it away in another place.”

Mr O’Dea is the first to acknowledge he doesn’t know how the increased allocation for Cherrabah will impact on downstream landholders like himself.

But he has spent the past fortnight trying to find out.

“I have repeatedly asked DERM for copies of the technical and scientific reports on which they based their decision,” Mr O’Dea said.

“They have refused to pass on the reports to me directly, saying I need to go through the Freedom of Information process.

“Yet as the landholders most likely to be affected, I believe we have a right to know the detail.”

He would also like an opportunity to have the data collected in the lead-up to the licence amendment approval examined by an independent hydrologist.

“As landholders with concerns about this application’s approval we only have 30 days to put forward a submission to DERM outlining the grounds for our objections,” Mr O’Dea said.

“It is not a matter of us writing letters to say we don’t agree; the time has come for us to look at the science behind this approval.”

He is well supported with more than 30 local landholders submitting early objections to the application and many now lending their weight to this new call for DERM to review the decision.

“Ideally we want copies of the reports on which DERM made this call and an extension of time in which to respond,” he said.

DERM confirmed they would meet with interested stakeholders at a public meeting at Murray’s Bridge State School tonight.

However they had not advised by time of printing last night if the scientific and technical reports instrumental in their decision to approve the water licence increase, would be available.

Public Meeting

DERM will hold a meeting with Elbow Valley landholders tonight at Murray’s Bridge State School from 7pm.

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