Spirited navigation of unchartered waters
DESPITE a Sydney Morning Herald online article published less than an hour after Dubbo Regional Council’s meeting ended on Monday night, which described the decision to revise Level 4 water restrictions being the result of a “fierce backlash”, the mood in council chambers during formal proceedings was conciliatory.
Local turf farmer and Dubbo Green Space Alliance member Alex White made a public forum address requesting adoption of the new Level 4 restriction plan, having already been in discussions with Council.
“Without this openness and being able to talk I don’t think we’d be at the situation we are today, where we’re reviewing the water restrictions which looks positive for us moving forward,” Mr White told the meeting.
The Dubbo Green Space Alliance represents landscapers, turf suppliers, gardeners, mowing contractors, nurseries, irrigation and anyone connected with horticulture, and seeks positive ideas on minimising the impact on water-reliant small businesses, livelihoods and job security.
The key changes to the Level 4 restrictions, which were approved on Monday night, include a revised daily target of 280 litres per person per day, and an allocation of 30 minutes for outdoor watering – using one outlet only at a time, on a Wednesday and Sunday, for lawns or gardens.
New lawn of up to 50m2 may be installed and watering systems or devices must have a fixed timer or be attended for the 30-minute period. Restrictions have been removed on the use of evaporative coolers.
Dubbo Regional Council’s Chief Executive Officer Michael Mcmahon
said the revisions are more relevant and easier to understand for residents and business operators.
“Council staff have spent a lot of time analysing the existing activities that were a part of the current Drought Management Plan. As the plan is currently under review, it was necessary that we take a look at the activities as a priority,” Mr Mcmahon said.
The Drought Management Plan, which has been used to determine which restrictions to enforce, was first drafted by the former Dubbo City and Wellington Councils. The restrictions have attracted public criticism since September, including from former mayor Mathew Dickerson.
In a media statement after attending the Drought Information Session in Dubbo last Wednesday, Mr Dickerson said: “There is no doubt that Dubbo Regional Council is jumping to water restriction levels that are significantly more extreme than required – by their own documentation – and it is hurting Dubbo’s businesses and doing long-term damage to our reputation.”
In a follow-up statement after Monday’s night’s decision, Mr Dickerson said he applauded the change in restrictions as “a step in the right direction”, but added that “it would be simpler to just drop Dubbo back to lower level water restrictions”.
“Dubbo spent significant amounts of time in the BOD (Bathurst, Orange, Dubbo) alliance and the Lower Macquarie Water Utilities Alliance to arrive at common definitions of different water restriction levels which has now been thrown out the window!” he said.
Several councillors took to their feet to play down criticism, agreeing with Mr White’s call for frequent reviews.
“There’s been a lot of negativity to date and this negativity only serves to damage the reputation of Dubbo as well as businesses and the community,” Mr White said. “If they’ve got something to say, come to the table with solutions. The only way to get through this is to band together and work together to find results that help everybody.”
Breaches of the water restrictions may result in an on the spot fine of $220 per offence.
Alex White at council on Monday