The State Government has stepped in to halt Coffs Harbour City Council’s plans to sell water to blueberry growers.
The State Government has stepped in to halt Coffs Harbour City Council’s plans to sell water to blueberry growers.

Calls for urgent action and inquiry into water deal

Labor spokesperson for Coffs Harbour Tony Judge says the community is losing confidence in Coffs Harbour City Council.

Mr Judge, who was a public servant for almost 30 years before retiring to the region, is referring to council's plan to sell water from the Woolgoolga Dam to Costa Berries.

The plan was revealed in a Council press release before Christmas, which referred to changes in State Government regulations which could potentially make the dam non-compliant.

But critics of the plan say this is just the 'Trojan Horse' subterfuge behind the sell-off, with the regulations only coming into force in November last year with council having up to two years to meet any new requirements.

Mr Judge has slammed Council for the lack of transparency and accountability over their handling of the matter.

"In a drought there will always be competing demands for water. Farmers are doing it tough and they need water to keep their businesses alive," Mr Judge said.

 

Tony Judge
Tony Judge

"Firefighters need water to deal with current and future fires and local people need a clean, reliable water supply for their immediate and future needs. Those competing demands need to be met in a clear, transparent and accountable way if ratepayers are to have any confidence that Council is managing water in our best interests."

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He says the recent deal has destroyed the community's confidence in council and that urgent action is needed to restore it; and in the longer term there could be a case for an independent inquiry.

"We need to know more about both the Woolgoolga Dam decision and the sale of town water, because it appears that decisions are being made by Council officials without any involvement by our elected representatives.

"As a former long-term public servant, I find that lack of accountability particularly disturbing. When unelected officials start making those types of decision independently, we have a real problem with our democratic system."

He says the deal raises several questions and the community needs answers now.

"Are Councillors happy that they, our elected representatives, first heard of it as a done deal through a media release? Was the Mayor or Acting Mayor aware of the deal before it was released? Why was there no community consultation before the decision was made? Was there an Environmental Impact Statement before the deal was done?"