On the hunt for documents behind water sell-off
A FREEDOM of information request is pending to locate the documents behind the Woolgoolga Dam water sell-off deal.
The Save Woolgoolga Dam group has lodged the request (now referred to as a GIPA Government Information Public Access request).
They are asking for documents that led to the deal between Coffs Harbour City Council and Costa Berries which was announced in a Council press release on December 12.
"We are after any information about the safety of the dam wall, any toxicology reports about procedure for decontamination of the dam and any contracts with Costa," a group representative said.
Criticism has arisen from the apparent lack of transparency surrounding the deal and a subsequent lack of debate at an extraordinary Council meeting called on January 13 to discuss amending council's water access licence to allow for the sale of water for agricultural purposes.
The initial deal to sell water to Costa was put on hold by the Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) who deemed it was a breach of council's licence which stipulated water was to be used for 'domestic or stock purposes'.
Last week Council confirmed the authorities have approved their application to amend their licence but was light on details including the amount of water to be sold.
"NRAR has granted Council a new Water Access Licence that covers Woolgoolga Dam, which will allow the water in the dam to be used for agricultural irrigation," a Council spokesperson said.
"The next step is to continue discussions with the regulator over the actual amount of water that will be available for agricultural irrigation under this new licence.
"We have received eight applications from agricultural producers to access an allocation of raw water from Woolgoolga Dam."
The motion approved by Councillors at the January 13 extraordinary meeting called for the 'equitable access to the agricultural/ irrigation sector of up to 100 megalitres (approximately 45 per cent of current water volume)'.
The licence application will now be advertised for 28 days with the public given an opportunity to comment.
Members of Save Woolgoolga Dam met with Coffs Harbour MP Gurmesh Singh last week to express their concerns about the issue.
He acknowledged their fears about the logistics of up to 77 trucks per day moving water for the next few months on Newmans Road or Solitary Islands Way across from the High School entrance.
Mr Singh, a former blueberry farmer and the former chairman and founding director of Oz Group co-operative, was recently forced to distance himself from the deal.
He took to Facebook in December to declare: 'I have had nothing at all to do with the council's sale of water to anyone for any purpose - any suggestion otherwise is a deliberate lie.'