Councillors clash over Emu Swamp Dam
PROGRESS has been made “in principle” for Emu Swamp Dam, after a tense special meeting of the Southern Downs Regional Council this morning.
Councillors Andrew Gale, Ross Bartley, Cynthia McDonald and Stephen Tancred voted in favour of the motion to support the investment and reallocation of water from Storm King Dam to Emu Swamp Dam, conditional upon further information.
“We are a community without water, and there’s no rain coming,” Cr McDonald said.
“We need to solve this situation, and we need to solve it fast.
“We need to do what we were put here for, and start working on a resolution.”
Several important details regarding water allocation, transportation, and finances remained unclear, creating a divide between the councillors.
The cost to buy into the dam project would be $6000 per megalitre, and the cost to purchase water would be $408 per megalitre, according to SDRC director of infrastructure services Seren McKenzie.
“On top of that, the council has to work out how we get water from (the dam) to the treatment plant at Mt Marlay, and there would be additional costs,” Ms McKenzie said.
“We’ll probably have to get booster pumps and reservoirs.”
Councillor Jo McNally argued the agreement, even in principle, was premature.
“A number of conditions and parameters need to be set to guide the … agreement,” Cr McNally said.
“Before I can agree to anything I need a lot more information.”
The connotations of the phrase “in principle” were a sticking point for councillors Sheryl Windle, Cameron Gow, Marco Gliori and McNally, all of whom voted against the motion for fear of being trapped in a deal where so much of the outcome remained unknown.
It was an unfounded fear, according to Cr Tancred, who assured the councillors that no one was, technically, agreeing to anything.
“We’re seeking good sound information in time, when our good officers pull back to us,” he said.
“We’re not agreeing to any financial contributions today.
“We have a responsibility to our community to endorse it.”
There is currently no funding allocated to the Emu Swamp Dam project in the budget for the 2020/21 financial year, and councillors discussed “going to the state government with cap in hand” to ask for financial assistance.
The pressure to make a decision less than one month after the proposal was put forward by the Granite Belt Irrigation Project prompted Cr Gliori to take a step back from the deal, lest his fingers get “caught in the door”.
“I think (the dam is) a fantastic opportunity for irrigators, I appreciate that and I want them to have their water,” Cr Gliori said.
“But I want to be behind the steering wheel with this.
“We’ve been doing it for 16 years, where’s the rush?”