Horse owner to challenge ‘ridiculous’ water fine
Hot on the heels of their own fine for breaching water laws Coffs Harbour City Council has fined a horse owner for taking water from a tap at a Coffs Harbour beach.
Mariette Eden was photographed filling two drums of water for her horses from a hose connected to Council's water supply at the toilet block at Diggers Beach reserve.
The photos were taken on May 7 and they were forwarded to Council along with her car registration details.
Little over two weeks later she received a $220 penalty notice telling her she had breached Section 637 of the Local Government Act which related to 'waste or misuse of water'.
Mariette takes the accusation very seriously but does not accept the fine, which far exceeds the cost of the water she took if she was to purchase it.
In her opinion Council should instead focus on ensuring tanks and other water sources are safe from the impacts of intensive agriculture.
The tap in question requires a special key to access but she says most campers have these, and there is no sign at the tap saying it is illegal to use it.
Recently Coffs Harbour City Council were themselves fined for breaching water laws by the Natural Resource Access Regulator (NRAR). They fined council $1500 for allowing a local grower to use the old town water supply for irrigation purposes over several years.
Council was also issued a warning about non-compliant monitoring of water take from the dam. Their application to have their access licence changed to allow water from the Woolgoolga dam to be used for agricultural purposes is still pending.
Mariette estimates she took about 350 litres of water in two separate drums and says she has no choice as she fears her water tanks are being poisoned by spraydrift from nearby blueberry farms.
Mariette lives up on Bruxner Park Road near a number of expanding berry farms. She says Council should not allow intensive agriculture in R5 Large Lot Residential zone.
"Council has given away thousands of litres of water. Not a bathtub full. And now they pick on me for accessing much needed water for my horses as I am certain the water in my tank is contaminated due to Council not implementing proper regulations around intensive farming and spray drift in large lot residential areas."
She hasn't had her water tanks tested as it's a costly process but she's highlighted a recent Council study which revealed that off-site pesticide movement is occurring in the Local Government Area and that further studies should be conducted to investigate their source.
The study was undertaken in response to community concerns over the safety of drinking water from their rainwater tanks.
Water samples were taken from 23 rainwater tanks with a total of 71 samples tested. Pesticides were detected in 10 of the 71 samples, but the levels were below the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines values, so the water was considered safe.
Mariette is planning to seek legal advice to challenge the fine.