Residents will meet with Greens MLC Cate Faehrmann to discuss a 100ML water extraction proposal.
Residents will meet with Greens MLC Cate Faehrmann to discuss a 100ML water extraction proposal. Matthew Newton

Group to discuss proposed increase in water extraction

GREENS MLC Cate Faehrmann will this week meet with a Northern Rivers group regarding a proposed water extraction operation.

Ms Faehrmann will meet with Save Alstonville Aquifer and local farmers on Thursday.

A development application for increasing permitted water extraction at an Ellis Rd property at Rous.

This would see the 61 megalitres that can be removed from on-site bores for the irrigation of existing blueberry crops increased to 100 megalitres.

The proposed increase would see surplus water that's not used for on-site irrigation bottled by a third party for retail sale.

The Save Alstonville Aquifer group was formed last year in response to the development application and met with the review team from the Office of the Chief Scientist and Engineer when they visited the region in January.

It's understood the Chief Scientist's final report from the Independent Review of the Impacts of the Bottled Water Industry on Groundwater Resources in the Northern Rivers Region of NSW is yet to be handed to the minister.

In a statement, Save Alstonville Aquifer responded to a preliminary report, which was released earlier this year.

The group raised the "stressed nature” of the aquifer, the dependency of local ecosystems on groundwater and the local community's opposition to water extraction, among other issues.

"While more long-term data is required on the state of the Alstonville aquifer, Save Alstonville Aquifer contends that declining water reserves in the aquifer should preclude extraction for bottling purposes,” the group's statement said.

"It should be noted that the highest concentration of bores already exists on Ellis Road, the site of the proposed (increased) extraction.

"It is hoped that community attitudes to bottled water extraction will be a consideration in policy decisions.

"In this context, the opposition of residents on the Alstonville plateau and immediate surrounds to bottled water extraction from the Alstonville aquifer cannot be overstated. 881 submissions appear on Ballina Shire Council's website opposing (the current DA) - an extraordinary number for a comparatively small rural area.

"It is abundantly clear that the local community on and around the Alstonville Plateau is unequivocally opposed to water mining for bottling purposes.”

The proponent of the Ellis Rd application, Tim Carey of Rous Mill Springs, previously told The Northern Star they believed the proposal was "sustainable”, that they wanted a "fair and unbiased assessment” from the council and that they had undertaken "a full hydrological study of the property”.