Author­ity to lobby against water ex­trac­tion

Ovens & Murray Advertiser - - NEWS - By CO­RAL COOK­SLEY

THE Mur­ray Dar­ling Basin As­so­ci­a­tion (MDBA) last week voted unan­i­mously to lobby the Vic­to­rian Gov­ern­ment to ac­count for the im­pact on com­mu­ni­ties of ground­wa­ter taken and used as bot­tled water fill.

The as­so­ci­a­tion’s na­tional con­fer­ence and an­nual meet­ing of 200 del­e­gates in the NSW Mur­rumbidgee River town of Lee­ton unan­i­mously agreed to a mo­tion drafted by Indigo Shire coun­cil­lor Bernard Gaffney to ap­proach the State Gov­ern­ment to amend water leg­is­la­tion.

Indigo Shire mayor Cr Jenny O’Con­nor pre­sented the mo­tion to del­e­gates, who rep­re­sent basin com­mu­ni­ties in four states and the ACT.

Cr Gaffney’s mo­tion calls on the gov­ern­ment to con­sider changes to sec­tion 51 of the Water Act 1989.

These would re­quire water au­thor­i­ties to con­sult com­mu­ni­ties and take ac­count of the ef­fects of ground­wa­ter take-and-use ap­pli­ca­tions on hor­ti­cul­ture and agri­cul­ture, bores for do­mes­tic and stock use and water use in nearby towns and vil­lages.

Au­thor­i­ties would also have to con­sider the ef­fects of ap­pli­ca­tions on the en­vi­ron­ment and water flow to reser­voirs, and to con­sult lo­cal coun­cils about the pur­pose for which ground­wa­ter was to be taken.

The mo­tion to bet­ter man­age and reg­u­late ground­wa­ter ex­trac­tion for bot­tling, where it im­pacts on high value agri­cul­tural land, has also been sup­ported by the Mu­nic­i­pal As­so­ci­a­tion of Vic­to­ria.

Cr O’Con­nor said the unan­i­mous de­ci­sion by MDBA del­e­gates clearly re­flected con­cern about the im­pli­ca­tions of ground­wa­ter ex­trac­tion that went beyond a small mu­nic­i­pal­ity like the Indigo Shire, which has con­sis­tently op­posed ground­wa­ter min­ing for bot­tled water fill.

“It’s a far reach­ing is­sue that faces ev­ery state in Aus­tralia,” she said.

Cr O’Con­nor said her team would still lobby the govern- ment in­de­pen­dently of the MDBA but with the back­ing of the as­so­ci­a­tion could ap­proach the Min­is­ter for Water di­rectly.

She said the MDBA was sub­mit­ting a let­ter to the min­is­ter de­tail­ing the pro­posed changes.

Stan­ley Ru­ral Com­mu­nity In­cor­po­rated (SCRI) chair­man Ed Tyrie said the im­por­tant de­vel­op­ment was a di­rect out­come from the Stan­ley com­mu­nity’s chal­lenge through the group to op­pose water min­ing com­pa­nies from turn­ing the Stan­ley Plateau into a “water min­ing waste­land”.

“There are now 83 mil­lion litres of ground­wa­ter un­der com­mer­cial li­cence for bot­tling on the plateau,” he said.

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