Release of report fails to stem protests

Protesting against the extraction of bore water from Izzeard Park which borders the Mother of Ducks Lagoon L to r: Rebecca Smith, Georgia Smith, Rob Lenehan, Ali Cairns, Gabe Staats, James Warren and Laurie Smith
23rd Jun 2020
Janelle Stewart

Armidale Regional Council (ARC)l have released the Hydrogeologist report which they relied on to develop the Guyra groundwater resource. General Manager Businesses for ARC, Scot MacDonald said that he is pleased to release the report, ‘Hydrogeological Investigation Guyra - Emergency Town Water Supply’, which was compiled by Hydroilex in October 2019.
The Hydroilex report outlines the scope of work; adherence to regulatory conditions; plans to avoid interference with other bore users and the potential groundwater resource.
“Council elected to undertake an emergency groundwater program as Guyra dam storages emptied in 2019,” Mr MacDonald said. “ARC worked with the NSW Government to investigate potential groundwater sources that could assist the community in the 2019/20 emergency and potentially over the long term.”
Mr MacDonald said that the environment is considered in the study, which makes the
observation “There are no recognised Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems (GDE) in the investigation area.” (page 8 of report)
Armidale Regional Council has applied for a permanent Water Access Licence for the groundwater extracted to be piped and pumped to Guyra’s water treatment plant.
Council believes it can sustainably utilise this resource to enhance water security for its residents and businesses.
Mr MacDonald said that the State Government’s Natural Resource Access Regulator will determine the Licence volume and sustainable extraction.
“Council operates under licence from the NSW Government and has been working with the State authorities to invest in infrastructure and programs to extend water security,” he said. “Our job is to deliver safe and reliable water to customers, diversify our water sources; budget for a financially responsible water system and plan for the future including asset renewal.”
“We also need to support economic activity that brings employment to the region and ensure its resource use is sustainable and has minimal impact on the environment.”
ARC is continuing the construction of the piping and pumping infrastructure required to develop the groundwater system and connect it to the Guyra water treatment plant. .
It has approval under Section 39A to undertake this work as an emergency supply for town water. Permanent utilisation of the resource will be at the discretion of the State regulatory authorities.
“It is prudent for Council to undertake this now rather than wait for the next drought,” Mr MacDonald said. “Additionally the NSW Government is providing $1million funding support for this groundwater project and that external funding may not be available in the future.”
Responding to the release of the report Rebecca Smith from the Friends of Mother of Ducks said that what is does outline is the lack of understanding of how the aquifers work.
“We have just come through one of the worst droughts in history and nearly run out of water with the aquifers intact,” she said. “What will happen in the next drought if they have been depleted?”
“We are not trying to fight with council, we want them to openly collaborate and share information in a timely manner and ensure the right studies are done so water is not extracted beyond what is sustainable.”
“The Mother of Ducks Lagoon is filled from above but is maintained by these aquifers and until we understand how they work we want assurances that no water will be taken.”