Council wants more time to respond to water plan

By KIERAN FINNANE

 

Responding to a call from Councillor Steve Brown, the Town Council last night voted to write to the Minister for Land Resource Management and request an extension of time in order to respond to the draft Water Allocation Plan for the town. Deadline for comment is currently April 29.

 

Cr Brown warned that the plan will have “an extremely limiting effect” on the town’s growth, contrary to the council’s strategic goals. He wanted council to call on the Minister to “set the plan aside”, but his colleagues preferred to come to their own conclusions, once having read the plan.

 

CEO Rex Mooney told councillors that he had received a visit from departmental staff during the day, who were following up on Cr Brown’s “comments in the media” – clearly a reference to the coverage in the Alice Springs News Online. Their view and, according to them, the view of the committee is that the plan will not cause stagnation, said Mr Mooney. He did not explain why not.

 

Cr Brown is council’s representative on the Water Advisory Committee, a position  which receives Ministerial approval. Cr Eli Melky, while agreeing “largely” with Cr Brown’s comments about the plan, questioned him on whether there was a conflict of interest for him, as a minister-approved member of the committee, in going to the media with his concerns.

 

A member of the Water Advisory Committee, Rod Cramer, speaking from the public gallery at the start of the meeting, warned council that a positive response to Cr Brown’s call would be based on “considerable ignorance”, there having been only one meeting of the committee since the election. He said it would be more worthwhile for council to encourage the government to change its mind on the exemption of the mining industry from water usage controls.

 

RELATED REPORT: Water – who is consulting whom on what

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16 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Peter Woodford
    Posted April 22, 2013 at 10:33 am

    If Steve Brown continues digging a hole for himself, he may well tap a whole new aquifer at this rate. What a nutcase.

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  2. Leigh Childs
    Posted April 21, 2013 at 10:27 pm

    Congratulations Steve you have become the town Nutter. I give you a capital letter this time.
    Good grief, I find it so hard to believe that an adult can possibly sprout and spew the garbage and hatred that you do.

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  3. Steve Brown
    Posted April 21, 2013 at 10:45 am

    Ahhh! There’s nothing I love more, than the squeals of hysterical loopy Lefties first thing in the morning! Makes me feel so alive! Also gives me great confidence that what I am saying is somewhere around the mark, it’s a kind of reverse psychology thing, like asking the village idiot which way to go then going the opposite.
    It’s also a wonderful opportunity for the people of Alice to see firsthand the kinds of life philosophies that have been driving government these past dozen years, the same ones who formed our Water Plan!
    Is it any wonder we are a disaster area. “Sustainability” is what I am talking about Leigh, what you and Jimmy are talking about is sitting on your hands because you are frightened of living.
    The inevitable result if the world was left in your hands would be the starvation of billions. The world today supports a far greater population than at any time in its history; Planet Plentiful is what you are living on, but you’re going to have to open your eyes to see it. So why do you suppose Darwin doesn’t have a “Water Cap”?

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  4. Leigh Childs
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    STEVE … calm down. You are becoming the town nutter.
    Jimmy is talking about S-U-S-T-A-I-N-A-B-I-L-I-T-Y. That means using resources in a way that they last and last and last and last. He is talking about living WITHIN our means and in our arid [you do agree we live in the arid environment] zone, we, the inhabitants have to live in harmony with the resources we have.
    Restrictions bring innovation. Having an anything goes attitude brings destruction … can’t you see that.
    What planet are you on Steve … ????? Planet plentiful … does NOT EXIST.
    The Alice Springs aquifers DO NOT recharge at every drop of rain in Alice. [Sorry I am stepping into John’s area of expertise.]
    Jimmy, have I got your message wrong?????

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  5. Ian Sharp
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    @ Steve … are you saying I am being hypocritical (if so, in what way? Don’t you believe me when I say I hold the belief that you are often irrational and rude in your responses on this website, am I only pretending do you think?)
    Or are you saying I am being hyper-critical, too hard on you, that I should make allowances for you in some way, on account of your … what?
    Just asking. And I will forgo the pleasure of sharing a dugout with Jimmy, thanks for the suggestion, but I am sure he is quite capable of making his own arrangements to deal with your outbursts.
    I would be interested, however, in a more rational and thoughtful discussion of the issues related to our water. I think a cap might be useful, but we need to know more about the demands that mining might place on the resource, and how that will be dealt with.

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  6. Leigh Childs
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    I second Ian Sharp’s comments … all of them.

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  7. Steve Brown
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    My God Jimmy, you really are a doom sayer, aren’t you. There’s not much good in being part of planning for the future, when you don’t believe we have one, is there. A word of advice, you don’t obtain anything in life by “really wanting it”. You get it by getting off your backside and doing something about it.
    Be really interested to hear your theory on the mechanics that are going to see ever increasing Temps.
    Batten down the hatches mate, maybe go underground. Were you one of those awaiting the end of the world last year I wonder? Hope you don’t mind if the rest of us don’t join you.
    @ Ian how do you manage to write those hypocritical statements with out flushing so brightly you spontaneously combust. I wonder if Jimmy might have a use for you in his dugout absorbing unwanted energy spikes created by the occasional involuntary movement exacerbated by really wanting something.

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  8. Ian Sharp
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 10:53 am

    I agree with Steve Brown, Jimmy IS naive. For thinking he could have a rational debate with Steve, without personal attacks and pigeon-holing.
    As for the issue of water, the idea of cap to stimulate better water conservation practices and new technologies makes sense, to get the best out of existing borefields.
    There may be plenty of water further out, but that involves extra infrastructure and operating costs that we could avoid for some time if we are less profligate.

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  9. Hal Duell
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 8:17 am

    A question to both Steve and Jimmy, or anyone else reading this stream who can answer it: You both seem to accept the statement that “Darwin has infrastructure under construction way in advance of its ability to supply water”. Are you agreeing that Darwin is building faster than its current ability to supply water, or faster than its water supply? The first could be fixed with more water infrastructure, the second maybe not.
    My impression is that there is ample water across the Top End to supply water to Darwin as it becomes a major city and Australia’s port to Asia. Not so?
    Isn’t mining the greatest threat to water through overuse and lingering contamination – no matter where that mining takes place? Regulate that industry first, and wouldn’t much of this argument fall away?
    Just asking.

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  10. Jimmy Cocking
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 12:41 am

    Quote SB: “Meanwhile Darwin has infrastructure under construction way in advance of its ability to supply water. Not that I mind that, as long as Centralians are afforded the same opportunities” – What Steve? To dry out in the middle of the desert? To pollute the precious groundwater like what’s happening in America, Steve? Should we just use up all the natural resources now – including water, so that we can make now so much better? But only so much better.
    The issues of alcoholism and welfare dependency go well beyond requiring jobs to “fix” the problem, and many of the horticulture jobs seem to be taken up with migrant or backpacker labour, so I don’t see how just “creating jobs” in horticulture is going to help out the poor and neglected Central Australians that you speak of.
    The pioneering town needs to get into new ventures and horticulture is definitely part of that mix.The cap is not stopping that from happening. A water licence can be applied for, that is the point of an application process.
    Rather than it not being monitored and then years later finding out that much more had been pumped out, returning only very slowly through many, many layers of rock, sand and sedimentation or worse, contaminated.
    The Country Liberal Party may be good for business but the key challenge for them is to ensure that the business environment created fosters innovation and sustainable development.
    Re-runs of the same failing model that continues to cheat taxpayers by propping up industries with fossil fuel subsidies may be good for the exploration and mining industry, but it creates dependencies of regions on unsustainable industries.
    With only a couple of decades at best on the horizon for these companies and shareholders demanding profits – we see the destruction of water courses and land.
    Best we start being more efficient with our water and generate more energy from the sun because it all could change very quickly as we have learned from the Great Recession.
    With our decision-makers banking all our natural asset sales on China, which was reported today to be quite shaky. we need local solutions (of which I agree with you wholeheartedly Steve), but it means valuing the natural resources we need here and now. Water and energy.
    We have abundant solar energy and should be aiming for 100% at certain times of the year with back-up gas generators on stand-by.
    We can be world leaders in water efficient horticulture and drylands agriculture.
    But we really have to want it Steve. We really have to want to change and be prepared to take on what that means.
    I really value your desire for a transformation of the economy that respects regional and remote areas – but you really have to want it Steve.
    You really have to want it and accept that the economic model you so faithfully and blindly believe in is not going to bring a rosy future.
    Or even a cut flower industry to this town. Change is certain Steve. It is the only thing that is, and it’s about time that we give up the laissez-faire (look it up) approach to the management of our natural resources.
    When the weather turns itself up and its more than just the farmers complaining about it, there will be fewer and fewer people wanting to live out here, so we’d better start doing our bit at keeping the temperature down and making sure we got plenty of water in the well for the hot times.

    BTW: The Alice Springs Water Advisory Committee meeting minutes are available for all to see on the website.

    PS. Please refrain from personal attacks and pigeon-holing Steve. I know that may make you feel strong and powerful, but we really need to work together if we are to have a sustainable future in this town. We’re all an important part of this community Steve, all of us.

    [ED – The minutes of the Water Advisory Committee meeting in October last year “are available for all to see on the website” because the were posted this week, after the Alice Springs News Online drew attention to their absence.]

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  11. Steve Brown
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    Very predictable reaction from you Jimmy what’s the matter you don’t like discussion on these issues out in the open arena?
    It’s so much harder to slant outcomes to your own argument when the public is aware of the personal agendas and political ideologies of members. Hell, they might even ask awkward questions about why some members are even on such a committee!
    Particularly when some of those members might be non representative activists from elsewhere with no expertise, no history, very little understanding of the issues involved.
    A reason for us to deny the isolated children of central Australia a future! A chance at a job! A chance to fulfill their dreams!
    Alice Springs is a small town of some 28,000 souls. A large portion of that population is welfare dependent.
    Doing something about that is of paramount importance. We are constantly engaged in discussion about alcohol and rehabilitation; nothing will truly address those issues until we give these people a life away from welfare dependency!
    That requires jobs, and lots of them!
    People who have jobs require housing, this requires growth. Business who bring the investment that create jobs, require growth.
    We have nothing to fear from growth and everything to gain; we are a small pioneering town, not an overdeveloped city!
    We are not only entitled but obliged to take up the land and resources in our area of the world and use them to create a life for ourselves and our children.
    We are also obliged as a community to pay our own way in the world not to sit on our proverbial and rely on other hard working Aussies to do it for us.
    I am sick to death of overfed stuffy bureaucrats with a personal agenda of “I’m alright Jack” meddling with the structures of our town to suit their own completely selfish concepts.
    Alice Springs’ natural, healthy growth, has been strangled for a number of years by greedy bureaucrats in the North they have achieved and justified the neglect of the people of central Australia by using naive people like you, Jimmy, to do the dirty work.
    Justifying their neglect for them, a little tweaking here or there, goes something like this. ”Wink, wink”, “Oh you better be careful of water, you’re a bit dry down there”! “How much you got left”? “What, only 400 years”! “Hell we better put a cap on usage!” “Slow down growth, snigger, snigger”.
    That’s how it works Jimmy. If you weren’t aware, meanwhile Darwin has infrastructure under construction way in advance of its ability to supply water. Not that I mind that, as long as Centralians are afforded the same opportunities.
    Good news, Jimmy, we have a new, duly elected Country Liberal Government! “Isn’t that fantastic”!
    Our new government has a philosophy of growth and prosperity.
    The article that precedes this in the Alice News, the Uniting Church Development, is what you are going to be reading from now on. “Yippee”!! Alice needs guts and get up and go if we are going to turn ourselves around the go part of that is something you might want to contemplate, Jimmy. I’m sure there are plenty of other towns with thriving economies that require the attentions of a good saboteur to bring them in line with the third world. Make no mistake, Alicespringites, the “Water Cap” is a “Infrastructure Cap”. There is absolutely “NO NEED” for it to exist!

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  12. Leigh Childs
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 11:31 am

    Oh, the bliss of reading a well written, well thought out and cogent response to an important topic [water management / sustainability in Alice].
    I am so sick of the ‘growth at all costs’ argument; the ‘I wanna green lawn and it’s my right to have one’ argument; the ‘lets dig it up / sell it off as fast as we can’ argument; and the ‘let’s pretend we don’t live in an arid environment’ attitude.
    Thank-you Jimmy for a sensible, real, dare I say sustainable article.

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  13. Posted April 17, 2013 at 6:46 pm

    Growth, growth, growth … we have had a growth rate of 1% for a while now and it’s got nothing to do with the ‘cap’ on water. We are experiencing the slowdown that has been termed the Great Recession in other parts of the world. Please stop looking for someone or something to blame for this. The reason we’re in this mess is because of unsustainable economic growth due largely to greed, speculative markets and a growth at all costs mentality which crashed into a wall of debt in 2008-09.
    Water is our most precious resource out here, more than gas, oil or gold.
    Long term management of water, sustainable development – note that word – sustainable – for the long term. Not just for now, not just for the next generation but for the long term. We have for the last decade or so been the nation’s highest, to second highest users of water per capita. Yes it’s because it’s hot and dry out here but there is so much being wasted through leaks and inappropriate garden watering regimes.
    The cap is there as a target for Power and Water Corporation to try to remain under. This is in all of our interests. Why should we just have a free for all, especially when so much is going to waste? I for one think that the Alice Springs Water Allocation Plan http://lrm.nt.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/146173/Draft-ASWAP_Release-for-Public-Comment.pdf is the single most comprehensive document detailing the Alice Springs Water Story.
    It is a credit to the public servants who created it. Why was it not up on the Alice Springs Town Council website? It was launched on the Council lawns on World Water Day, March 22, four weeks ago! It could form part of the residents packs so newcomers and residents alike can learn our water story. Maybe?
    The ‘cap’ that you constantly refer to is there to drive innovation and resource efficiency. Why would we not have a cap? I think your assertions blaming the cap for stagnating growth are alarmist at best. According to the document only about 2/3 of the licensed amount was reached in 2011-12, this doesn’t seem like much of a limiting factor to me.
    I agree with you that we should be exploring other options so that we know exactly where the next bore field may be but attacking responsible public policy is not the way to do it. We are mining our aquifer, it is going down a metre or so per year – adding to the costs of pumping and delivering the water to our taps.
    Having a conservative water extraction target is responsible public policy. We’re talking about 10-30000 year old water, it is that old because it replenishes very, very slowly. Reducing demand by increasing efficiency is another step forward. Removing exemptions for mining, gas and petroleum activities under the Water Act are necessary. This would show commitment to the lives of Territorians for the long-term rather than propping up the short-term profits of mining, gas and petroleum companies that have little to no commitment to the Territory’s natural assets, except to get them out of the ground and off to market.
    The current trajectory of ‘business interests at all costs’ is likely to lead to long term legacies of groundwater pollution, contribute to climate chaos and leave dirty, gassy holes throughout the NT (especially with the appallingly low environmental bonds being requested by the Mining Department). That’s scary … much more frightening than an achieveable target of 10.7GL for public water extraction from the Mereenie aquifer.
    I look forward to working with you on the Alice Springs Water Advisory Committee this year Steve, it will be great to have another member on the committee who also cares passionately about our water now and into the future.

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  14. Steve Brown
    Posted April 17, 2013 at 10:06 am

    The point in regards to mining made by Mr Cramer to Monday’s Council Meeting was interesting, as is the comment here by John Childs.
    I substantially agree with both comments. However they have nothing at all to do with the current issue! In Rod’s case it was nothing more than a deliberate attempt at distracting discussion from the issue I have raised, which relates to the setting of a “CAP” on how much water Alice can use.
    This “CAP” is a deliberately created justification tool of the previous Government, one that can be used to limit growth in our region. Mr Cramer has quite a history with this committee, and also in opposing just about anything at all that looks like development / growth for Alice Springs, a view that appears to be reflected in some areas of great consequence within this plan.
    Mr Cramer raises the point that there was only one meeting of this committee in 2012, a meeting which I as the Council’s representative did not get to attend.
    Thank you for that Rod, because that was exactly my point! It is clear evidence that a body engaged in producing a major growth / future affecting plan for a region paid nothing but lip service to public consultation and information dissemination.
    In attending the Thursday public presentation (the first meeting for 2013) I listened during question and answer time, to comments about “Political Interference” being detrimental to good policy development, and that the Alice was only now a few percent from reaching “The Cap” the yearly consumption rate set by this committee for the next 400 years, and that in turn we could stay under that “Cap” if Alice Springs population / growth remained around or a little less than it is now.
    I have long suspected that this committee was pushing a growth limiting agenda but had not heard the words uttered in a public forum before now. It appears that this committee is reaching conclusions and pushing agendas quietly in the background away from public scrutiny. If I were to allow this plan to slip by and be passed into legislation by the Minister, without first making sure that public discussion took place, I would be failing in my first and foremost duty as an elected representative of the Alice Springs community.
    I decide to drag this cosy little club kicking and screaming if necessary into the light! The real issue here is the mindset that there should be a fixed “Cap” on our water supply!
    There is no need for a “Cap”. The “Cap” it is a fictitious figure! A figure formulated in order to minimise future NT Government investment in our water supply infrastructure! There is no need for a “CAP” as we have enormous future water supply opportunities other than the Mereenie Aquifer available to us.
    The “Cap” is not really a “Cap” on water supply it is a “Cap” on government expenditure in our region! The efforts of this committee should be directed to researching, planning and budgeting for future opportunities, and as mentioned by others, in overseeing any activity that could put our supply at risk, for example “mining”. This committee’s efforts should be directed at implementing government of the day political policy, dealing with, assisting with, advising and re-sourcing regional “development”! Not in shutting it down!
    When the first wagons rolled into the Old Telegraph station there was nothing more than a puddle in the creek available as a water supply if they had taken the same line of approach as this ASWAC Alice Springs would never have been born!
    Or at a later stage in the early sixties when we nearly did run out of water, we would have shut up shop and moved out, but we didn’t, we went out and found the resources we needed!
    When we needed them and continued to grow! Nothing has changed! As we grow we can and will find the necessary resources to support that growth!
    For the next few hundred years Alice Springs has the most secure water supply of any city in the nation. Our capital Darwin has available to it a mere two years of water supply should it decide to stop raining for awhile, do you hear them saying No Growth?
    Not only do we have a secure water supply for our community but the aquifers available to us hold enough water to support very large multimillion dollar agricultural and horticultural industries that are capable of generating jobs for thousands!
    So instead of sitting, waiting, trembling in our tents, for four hundred years until we possibly run out of water! Let’s put this ridiculous “Cap” aside and get on with developing a future for our children!
    I’m calling on the Minister to set aside this plan and the process that created it and to create in its place a Water Resource Research and Development Committee / Plan for Central Australia and that given we have some four hundred years in front of us let’s take the time to do it properly.
    Meanwhile set constraints aside and deal with major water allocation issues when and as they arise! Not by making sure they don’t!

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  15. John Childs
    Posted April 16, 2013 at 10:01 pm

    Rod Cramer is right – the exemption from the Water Act for mining activities has led to a slap-dash level of oversight and regulation of such activities. Transparency is desperately needed, either by making mining activities subject to the Water Act, and/or by requiring all mining management plans and reporting on the environmental conditions in them to be public. To have them kept “confidential” in this day and age is just not acceptable.
    John Childs, ex-delegate of the Controller of Water Resources.

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  16. David Chewings
    Posted April 16, 2013 at 11:52 am

    This is a very grave issue for Central Australia. The situation at Mataranka involving Tina McFarlane and her family shows just how quickly things can turn. I would advise all Alice Springs people to watch this space and take note of those who know about water for example, Rod Cramer.

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