What is it with many of the local councils and councillors in the Murray-Darling Basin?
They seem to be firmly of the belief that the Clarence Valley catchment is an est. 22,700 sq. km supermarket whose shelves can be browsed at will.
Where they can pile their trollies high with items which will enhance their own regional economies and, when they get to the checkout pay for the natural resources they take not with dollars but with degradation, destruction and death.
Approximately once every twenty years these councils lobby state and federal governments to industrialise the Port of Yamba so they can export minerals, ore, grain, cattle etc., through the Clarence River estuary and, at least twice a decade they want to dam and divert water from the Clarence River catchment so that they can grow their own regions at the expense of Clarence Valley communities.
Each and every time these local government raiders appear on the horizon the people of the Clarence Valley point out the limitations and risks of these grand plans for an ancient floodplain and river system that began its life at least 23 million years ago and, which due in part to happy historical accident and good management remains a relatively health system to this day.
They politely point out the fact that like north-west NSW they too suffer from the same droughts and rely on this particular river system to see us through them. They tell them the limits of safe water sharing have been reached because the catchment already supply drinking water to the growing Coffs Harbour region further south.
They remind them that river system flows in the catchment are highly variable and natural freshwater flows are vital to keep a highly productive main river (which is saline for almost half its length) healthy and biodiverse in order to sustain our own agricultural, commercial fishing and tourism industries into the future.
Locals also point to the environmental studies done down the years by various governments which are not in favour of altering the rate or volume of river flows, that the native title holders are very protective of these waters and, when these councils won’t listen they stop being polite and put their foot down.
If Cr. Zappacosta of Griffith (The Area News, 11 June 2016) doesn’t remember the last time that happened I’m sure Bourke Shire Council will, because that was the time that it proposed a Clarence River water diversion plan which relied on the estimated $1.5 billion dollar cost being “financed by the private sector against sales of water licences and long-term operation and management rights” and was actively seeking to identify sources of diversion funding [A Clarence Valley Protest, 23 August 2007].
That was the time the Clarence Valley declared “Not A Drop”, successfully lobbied a NSW Coalition government, gave evidence before a Senate inquiry and saw off a federal government in late 2007.
Cr. Zappacosta would be wise to save his breath to cool his porridge because he can talk to each and every politician in Canberra and Macquarie Street but it will get him nowhere if the people of the Clarence don’t agree with his current plan to divert 1,000 gigalitres of fresh water annually – and I strongly suspect that they won’t.
Judith M. Melville, Yamba