Local residents are concerned about water extraction plans at Uki and Alstonville.
Local residents are concerned about water extraction plans at Uki and Alstonville. Richie Mamando

Calls for water mining moratorium, 'immediate' inquiry

GROWING concern about water extraction proposals on the Northern Rivers has resulted in local politicians calling for a moratorium on new proposals and a full independent inquiry.

Yesterday, the Nationals' candidate for Lismore, Austin Curtin, called on Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair to launch an independent investigation into water extraction in the region.

His concerns were based on plans for a water extraction operation at Uki.

"Water security is an issue facing communities across the country and the public has the right to know what effect industry is having on this important resource," Mr Curtin said.

"I want NSW Chief Scientist Hugh Durrant-Whyte to investigate, whether the water able to be extracted through groundwater licences on the Northern Rivers is sustainable, and the viability of the bottled water sector in our region."

Mr Curtin's comments were supported by current Lismore MP Thomas George.

This morning Ben Franklin, the Nationals' candidate for Ballina and the Parliamentary Secretary for Northern NSW, also joined calls for a "full independent inquiry into water extraction on the Northern Rivers to be carried out before any new proposal is considered".

"This morning I met with a range of individuals on the Alstonville plateau who were deeply concerned over the possible impact of a new proposal to extract 100 megalitres of water per year from the Alstonville aquifer," Mr Franklin said.

"Their concerns relate to the potential impact on the water table, a range of possible environmental impacts and concerns about possible safety issues on local roads due to increased traffic.

"I share those concerns and today I am calling on the State Government to conduct a full and independent inquiry into the sustainability of the bottled spring water industry. This inquiry should be established immediately and conducted by the Chief Scientist and Engineer.

Mr Franklin does not believe any new proposal on the Northern Rivers should be considered until the review is completed and the safety of the process can be assured.

"Nothing is more important than preserving the long term viability of our water supply so I don't believe any further development by this industry should be able to be considered in our community until we know the facts," Mr Franklin said.