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CVC restates opposition to mining and river diversion

Geoff Helisma

Clarence Valley Council [CVC] has restated its opposition to any diversion of the Clarence River or mining within its catchment. The council’s general manager, Ashley Lindsay, concludes in CVC’s submission to the draft North Coast Regional Water Strategy: “Council reiterates its position that any proposal to divert the Clarence cannot be justified from an economic, environmental or social perspective.”

Similarly, Mr Lindsay writes regarding mining: “In accordance with [CVC’s] adopted policy position, council requests the strategy recommend a moratorium on further mining (metals and coal) exploration licences and the cancellation of existing licences.”

Mr Lindsay questions the draft strategy’s statement in relation to overseeing mining (one active at the moment) and exploration (at least four) activities in the valley – “the potential environmental impacts from all phases of mining operations are now better controlled through legislation, regulation, standards and statutory approvals processes”.

He writes that CVC “is particularly concerned that the [draft] strategy has not adequately considered the potential adverse impacts of future mining proposals”.

At its November 2020 CVC meeting, councillors resolved to seek the support of both state and federal governments to impose a moratorium on further mining exploration licences and to cancel existing licences. New South Deputy Premier John Barilaro’s subsequent response rejected CVC’s position, which is on the agenda for next week’s CVC meeting on Tuesday April27.

Mr Lindsay also questioned the government’s lack of communication in relation to local water utilities (LWU).

“Local water utilities are not notified of exploration or mining proposals within drinking water catchments,” he writes.

“Currently, the only avenue for LWUs to find out about mining proposals in drinking water catchments is through public advertisements.

“Given mining poses a potentially significant risk to drinking water quality, it is recommended that an outcome from the strategy be a change to the statutory approval process requiring that LWUs be notified of mining proposals within drinking water catchments so that they can make submissions.”

On proposals to divert “the Clarence to the Border Rivers”, Mr Lindsay observes that while the north coast draft strategy “does not identify any option to dam any of the major rivers in the region for the purpose of diverting water to inland”, the draft Border Rivers Regional Water Strategy does include options to divert the river’s flow inland.

“[It] indicates that feedback on these diversion options is welcomed to help inform the options assessment process in the Border Rivers and Namoi regions,” Mr Lindsay writes.

“[CVC] has considered the issue of diversion on numerous occasions and its position has consistently been to oppose any diversion.

“…Council considers the diversion option should be rejected outright by the North Coast Regional Water Strategy.

“Any diversion of the Clarence is considered to adversely impact both the local economy (in particular the fishing industry), and also the natural environment.

“Diversion of the Clarence would reduce the well documented benefits of flood flows, which include: increased soil fertility; flushing and spreading of nutrients; groundwater recharge; and, maintaining the natural ecological cycle.”

The draft strategy is on exhibition and submissions will be accepted up until Sunday May 16.

Note: CVC’s submission will be tabled for councillors’ consideration at next week’s April 27 CVC meeting.

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