Water becomes source of contention

Rous Water has weighed into the debate on the proposed rezoning for Camerons Road at McLeans Ridges.

In a letter to Lismore City Councils general manager dated April 8, Rous operational services manager Wayne Franklin raises a number of issues concerning planning controls for land within the Wilsons River Lismore Source catchment area.

Mr Franklin points out that none of the documents in the rezoning submission identify that the land is in the catchment area and proposes that the development proponent prepare a drinking water risk assessment report.

The letter also suggests further consideration of the proposed on-site sewage management to reduce potential risks of contamination.

McLeans Ridges Community Group spokesperson Janet Allen said members of the community had asked Council staff on at least two occasions at public meetings Rous views on the proposed development and were told Rous had no issues with rezoning.

We are greatly concerned by the information and do not see how things can progress until the proponents provide sufficient information for Rous to make a proper assessment, Ms Allen said. We find it very hard to believe the rezoning submission did not identify or recognise that the site is located within the catchment of the Lismore Source and that Council did not insist that this was done and rezoning proposals sent to Rous 12 months ago when they first went on public exhibition. This is as incredibly important issue that can potentially impact heavily on the region.

However, Council acting general manager Lindsay Walker said the issues would be canvassed with councillors at a workshop at Council next Tuesday.

Lismore City Council entirely agrees that we need to ensure safe drinking water, Mr Walker said. It will continue to work with Rous, as it has in the past, to ensure the Source water supply is not put in jeopardy by any development over which Lismore City Council has jurisdiction.

We will make amendments to the Local Environment Plan (LEP) to accommodate the outcomes Rous wishes to see within the catchment.

Sue Higginson, solicitor with the Northern Rivers Environmental Defenders Office, said she was alarmed none of the documents relating to the rezoning application recognised the land was in the Source catchment area.

The whole of the proposed development area drains into tributaries of the Wilsons River, which then run directly to the Lismore Source extraction area, Ms Higginson said. This is such a serious environmental planning omission on the part of Lismore Council, given all the proposed housing developments that will be permissible if the rezoning application is successful involve on-site sewerage management.

Lismore Council consented to the Lismore Source project to provide drinking water to the community. Not only should Council have updated its LEP to reflect proper planning controls for the water catchment area of the Source, it should be assessing the impact any proposal in the catchment area may have on the water quality of the Source. This is a classic example of poor, shortsighted, haphazard and potentially negligent planning and is in breach of the the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.

It is not adequate to relegate the assessment of the on-site sewerage management of each proposed housing development at the DA stage.

If Council fails to give any real, genuine or proper consideration to the impact the rezoning application and the subdivision proposal will have on the Source it may fall into legal error.

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