Friday, 12 November 2010

Clarence Valley shows its resolve to fight water raiders

Mayoral Minute included in the Clarence Valley Council ordinary monthly meeting business paper for 16 November 2010:





16 November 2010






Clarence Valley Council has always opposed any plans to divert water out of the Clarence catchment (Reports are attached).

It is now timely that Council again register its strong opposition to any plans to do so.


1. That the Council again register it strong opposition to any plans to divert waters out of the Clarence catchment.

2. That Council makes a submission to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Regional Australia inquiry into the proposed Murray-Darling Basin Plan (MDBP), noting Council’s opposition to any plans to divert waters out of the Clarence catchment.


The Federal Government has begun an inquiry into the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

For the information of the Council the terms of reference are:

The Standing Committee on Regional Australia will inquire into and report on the socio-economic impact of the proposed Murray-Darling Basin Authority's 'Guide to the Proposed Basin Plan' (the Proposed Basin Plan) on regional communities, with particular reference to:

• The direct and indirect impact of the Proposed Basin Plan on regional communities, including agricultural industries, local business activity and community wellbeing;

• Options for water-saving measures or water return on a region-by-region basis with consideration given to an analysis of actual usage versus licence entitlement over the preceding fifteen years

• The role of governments, the agricultural industry and the research sector in developing and delivering infrastructure and technologies aimed at supporting water efficiency within the Murray-Darling Basin.

In examining each of these issues, the Committee will also consider community views on:

• Measures to increase water efficiency and reduces consumption and their relative cost effectiveness;

• Opportunities for economic growth and diversification within regional communities; and

• Previous relevant reform and structural adjustment programs and the impact on communities and regions.

This will include consultation with Local Government, Regional Development Australia, community groups and individual stakeholders to better understand the local and community issues raised by the Proposed Basin Plan.

The committee will report back to Parliament by end of May 2011.

While it is noted the diversion of “other” river systems or inter basin transfer is not in the terms of reference, the plan is getting some space in the national media and (if reports are correct) has been raised in community consultation to date on the MDBP.

Our community has long held the view that the idea of diverting the Clarence River is something that we will not accept and as such, Council should make a submission outlining the socio-economic impact, environmental impacts and community views on the issue.

Again the words ring true - “Not a drop”.

The diversion of the Clarence River when assessed against Council’s adopted sustainability framework cannot be justified, as outlined below.


The Clarence is one of the nation’s great wild rivers, and one of the few rivers in Australia which has no major dam. The only across-river structure for water diversion is the relatively minor Nymboida Weir. The river is also the only place in the world where the endangered Eastern freshwater cod now exists. Much of the river is also surrounded by national parks and many of the tributaries by World Heritage declared rainforest.

The studies for the off-river storage urban water supply at Shannon Creek proved that any large dam on the Clarence River, if it diverted the highest or the lowest flows, could have dire environmental impacts on aquatic lifecycles. This is why the Shannon Creek dam (30,000 mega litres) was designed to only take a small amount of medium river flows from the Nymboida and was not located on the river. The science is beyond doubt, all those rivers which have large cross-river dams have had major environmental impacts on aquatic eco-systems, wetlands and fish habitats. This is the very reason that the Federal Government has released the Murray Darling Basin plan (on display now) and is trying to stop the river dying from too much regulation by dams and irrigation use.

Note: a relatively small urban water supply across-river dam on the Mary River in Queensland did not go ahead due to the environmental impact the dam would have and it only had a fraction of the environmental values of the Clarence.


The effects of major dams would inevitably decimate the Clarence River commercial and recreational fishing industries. It is well proven that variable flows and the flood flows are essential for a viable fishing and prawn industry. The commercial fishing industry is worth over $92 million in the Valley and generates over 430 jobs. The recreation fishing industry forms a large part of the $280 million tourism industry in the Valley which generates much of the economic base of Yamba, Iluka and Maclean.

The engineering reports carried out in the 1960’s and 70 have proved even then that any diversion scheme could not possibly be economically justified without a huge Government subsidy. Even then, the cheapest option was going to cost over $500 mega litre, which in today’s terms would be many thousands of dollars per mega litre. Note: irrigators now complain about paying less then $10 mega litre in the Murray Darling Basin for their irrigation water. The reports done did not analyse the economic or environmental costs to the Clarence River and on the community.

Any diversion of water to the West is not going to give any more irrigation water accept for those irrigators in the upper catchments eg Namoi, Gywdir, as system losses mainly by evaporation would not see any Clarence water reaching the Murray system. As well, any new water in the system would further accentuate the already major irrigation salinity problem in the Murrumbidgee and Murray irrigation areas.


The Healthy River Commission, in its report of the Clarence in early 2000’s, found that the one thing that absolutely unites the whole Valley is its river and everybody agrees that this river has great significance and should not be diverted to the West.

The Aboriginal community has a great mythological link to the river with every nation having a dream time story about the Clarence River’s creation.


The net result of any crazy scheme to divert the Clarence would be that instead of having one river system which is on its knees environmentally, socially and economically, you would instead have two systems in a similar state.

Financially, without huge Government subsidisation, any diversion scheme is totally uneconomic and cannot be paid for by water users in the west.

Cr Richie Williamson

MAYOR Prepared by:

Mayor Richie Williamson


Mayoral Minute


1. Report 12.005/06 (18 October 2006) Water Diversion – Clarence River

2. Report 05.006/07 (17 April 2007) Clarence River Diversion

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