On 18 April 2018 Toowoomba Regional Council in south-east Queensland resolved to submit a motion to the National General Assembly on Local Government in June this year.
This motion calls for the Assembly to amend Resolution 77 (Griffith City Council) which was carried the previous year.
Resolution 77 called on the “Federal Government to carry out a further feasibility study on David Coffey’s “Scheme to Divert Tributaries of the Clarence River to the Murray Darling Basin” to gather up-to-date information for investigation into this scheme”.
The Toowoomba amendment seeks to incorporate a pipeline from the Clarence River to Toowoomba and the Darling Downs region into that request for federal government investigation.
Hot on the heels of this latest push to dam and divert water from the Clarence River system comes the NSW Legislative Council Portfolio Committee No. 5 “Augmentation of water supply for rural and regional New South Wales” report, released on 14 May 2018.
Although informed by Clarence Valley Council that it has resolved six times not to support diversion of the Clarence River, this Upper House report clearly favours damming and diverting water from the Clarence River system.
The wording may have been slightly watered down via a motion by Mick Veitch MLC but it is still of considerable concern: “Resolution 40 – 6.89 The committee heard evidence from some inquiry participants that there may be potential benefits of diverting the Clarence River to the west. These inquiry participants were of the view that there is merit to any strategy that seeks to mitigate floods and flood damage in the Clarence Valley and provide additional water for agriculture in the Barwon region. The committee acknowledges that stakeholders were divided on the issue of water diversion. However, some inquiry participants held strong views against diverting waters from the Clarence River to the west.”
However, the draft version of 6.89 which indicates the extent of support the dam and divert proposal enjoys within this Upper House committee was quite frankly alarming: “The committee notes that there may be potential benefits of diverting the Clarence River to the west. There is merit to any strategy that seeks to mitigate floods and flood damage in the Clarence Valley and provide additional water for agriculture in the Barwon region. The committee acknowledges that stakeholders were divided on the issue of water diversion. However, the committee believes that further investigation into water diversion schemes is warranted to consider their feasibility as a strategy to mitigate floods. The committee therefore recommends that the NSW Government investigate the feasibility of water diversion schemes as a flood mitigation tool.”
If these sentiments are echoed by the Berejiklian Coalition Government down in Sydney then Clarence Valley Council, the people of the Clarence Valley and communities whose local economies depend on a healthy Clarence River will have a fight on their hands.
Because the calls from communities and vested interests who have managed to reduce their region’s rivers to a series of mud puddles will grow louder and more insistent over time.
This time around the call is spearheaded by Griffith, Toowoomba and the lobby group, Australian Water Exploration Company Ltd.
At the June National Assembly of Local Government they will be speaking to a sympathetic audience. Hopefully Clarence Valley Council is sending a representative to this gathering that will strongly counter their arguments.
Judith M. Melville, Yamba