'Concerns unheard': Mayor and MP team up to tackle water sharing plan
Fed up with water restrictions and receiving substandard water supplies is how Tamworth residents are feeling according to the mayor. Col Murray and Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson addressed media in a joint press conference on the proposed water sharing plan, which they agree do not address the issues that Tamworth is currently facing. At Tuesday night's meeting, councillors voted to roll out a communications campaign focused on educating residents on the issues with the Water Sharing Plan for the Peel Regulated River Water Sources 2020. The plan which was subject to community consultation in late 2019 is proposed to be renewed for a further 10 years relatively unchanged despite council and Mr Anderson raising concerns about the plan numerous times. Council will also be asking Mr Anderson to arrange a meeting with the Minister for Water, Property and Housing, Melinda Pavey, to discuss the issues. Cr Murray said they have been trying to consult the relevant departments, but feel their concerns are not being heard, and the community is frustrated. "We hear this message time and time again every day - why are we on these water restrictions, why can't you do something about it," he said. "Council doesn't own the Chaffey Dam. We don't own the process of providing that water. We don't own the process of delivering it. 'Unfortunately, we have water basically delivered to our door, and it's council's responsibility to treat it and reticulate it around." Cr Murray said it was baffling that the data being used to inform the plan was based on information from 10 years ago. He admitted that although Mr Anderson is trying to get the job done, it does seem that the state government is taking the Tamworth region for granted. Cr Murray acknowledged, however, that the water issues do not fall under Mr Anderson's portfolio. He said council hopes having the Tamworth MP onside would make it easier to get the Minister for Water to listen to their message. Mr Anderson said he would be "doubling down" on efforts to get the plan changed, and the first step has been taken already. He said the plan has been put on hold and will not be submitted on June 30 as it was meant to. "I don't believe it meets our current climate and our current environment and the situation that we find ourselves in with one of the worst droughts on record," Mr Anderson said. "We need to be able to have a plan that meets our current needs, and that can be changed when we need it to be changed." Mr Anderson said he had been in discussions with the water minister and the relevant departments since November last year. He added that the cutoff for environmental flows is currently when Chaffey Dam is at 10 per cent, a figure Mr Anderson regards as too risky. "The environment is getting a drink ... in my view, we should be holding that water for critical needs," he said. "In terms of progress, there are a number of agencies to go through. It is a spaghetti-mess." Mr Anderson also addressed the fact that the data the plan is based on is 10 years old. He labelled the move as "ridiculous", and it needs to take in what has happened recently, as well as how the ways water is received and delivered has changed.
On Monday, after Cr Murray's address to media 2TM put questions to Minister Pavey, and received a response on Wednesday.
"We are always happy to meet with Col Murray, he has never been shy about getting on the phone to me," Ms Pavey said.
"We suspended the Water Sharing Plans as a commitment to the pipeline.
"The pipeline was essential to ensure Tamworth had reliable water, by reducing transmission losses.
"Water for critical human needs come first every time. We wouldn’t have spent this money ($44.3 million) on this pipeline if we didn’t think Tamworth’s water supply wasn’t our priority."
Ms Pavey said the water sharing plans are currently being amended and "community is key to getting it right".
"We need to get the balance right between town water supply, environment and industry, who provide jobs for the local community," she said.
All water sharing plans for inland NSW use the most recent ‘drought of record’ before the plan was first made to determine allocations. This ensures plans are consistent across the state and provides certainty to water users.
The Namoi Regional Water Strategy that is currently being developed and will consider issues such as securing town water supplies, drought reserves and allocation decisions.
According to the government, this will include consideration of the impact of the current drought, which is the worst on record. However, the drought of record for Tamworth is the drought that occurred during and after World War II.