Unity missing in water crisis
Thursday, 24th December, 2015
By Erica Visser
A local water advocate says any effort by City Council to demand answers on the state government’s handling of the unfolding crisis would be “too little too late”.
‘We Want Action’ group spokesman, Darryn Clifton, said the mayor was “toeing the line” and many councillors had not done enough to advocate for the city’s long-term security.
It comes after Council refused to take a stance on the matter due to a lack of information on the government’s three options for the city, two of which involved piping water and one a surface supply backed up by bores.
Mr Clifton said that while he understood there was a lack of clarity and detail supplied on the three proposals, Mayor Wincen Cuy should have pushed harder for information months ago.
“Winnie Cuy is unfortunately taking the high road. But Council should have been lobbying or demanding from the start that this is the water supply we want and we want suitable measures for the people of Broken Hill.
“It should have been demanded that information be provided through the CCC (Community Consultative Committee) which Winnie was a part of.
“There are smart people on Council. They need to research these issues using publicly-available documents in the same way our group has done.”
Mr Clifton has led a community push for answers with the anti-bore “Refuse to Lose” campaign for the past year.
He said that councillors’ move to distance themselves from the campaign had reduced local power to sway the government.
“If we had Council behind us from the start pushing for the same things the government would have sat back and decided to listen.”
Mr Clifton said he had become increasingly worried about water security in the lead up to Christmas, when the Department of Primary Industry’s Gavin Hanlon allegedly failed to call him at a pre-arranged time to discuss concerns late last week.
He had hoped to discuss issues raised in correspondence from NSW Water Minister Niall Blair, including an admission that some of the 19 original long-term security options had not been raised with the public and that these would “undoubtedly drop out during the assessment process”.
“I’m still puzzled by why a top minister in NSW would bother to add things to a list that he knew hadn’t been put to the community and were not (feasible).”
Mr Clifton also had concerns about the continued taking of water by irrigators despite community use being restricted, and the ongoing costing of the pipeline proposals.
He called on local State MP Kevin Humphries, who had been quiet on the issue since being dumped as Water Minister, to reveal his own position.
“I know some locals have been giving Kevin hell over this but he just ignores it. He’s our voice but he won’t face the local constituents in the biggest city in his electorate.
“He has also refused to speak with me unless to discuss something that hasn’t been raised previously. He needs to front the community.”