Originally published 21Apr2009
Woolworths: The Sewer-Mining People
The "shit and the fan" fable is coming to a plot-thickening near you. Woolworths are not only the "Pokies People" (see http://www.mullumaction.org
article showing Nick Xenophon altering the Woolworths logo) but they may also become the "Sewer-Mining People" if they decide to over-ride Council"s Policy using Water Industry Competition Act 2006 (WICA).
Mullumaction have been busy researching and writing a submission to Council (see copy on our website) requesting them to refuse to grant Woolworths the S68 application for on-site sewage. This letter outlines some of the environmental protections that are in place within the local government regulations. However, Council has sadly informed us that Council Policy could now be over-ridden by the WICA Act which can be viewed at http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/nsw/consol_act/wica2006333/.
The S68 requirement was the last vestige of self-determination that Council had in this whole Woolworths saga which has been approved by the Minister for Planning despite Council"s objections and nearly 3000 community objections. The S68 application for on-site sewage is a local government issue and has to be decided by Byron Shire Council.
However, Woolworths may effectively sidestep this requirement if they decide to go for a private sewerage management facility which may include "sewer-mining". This is yet another way Woolworths can try to jump the building moratorium which requires developments to wait until the new sewage treatment plant (STP) is built. Building approval for the STP has been confirmed although its operation may be some years away.
The Woolworths site is flood-prone and soggy, just 500m away from tidal Brunswick River, 3.5m above sea level and is therefore unsuitable for any on-site sewerage system. Local policy"s guiding principles include the precautionary principle and intergenerational equity which means climate change and peak oil must be taken into account in the decision-making process. I wonder whether such ESD principles are contained within the WICA Act.
As for sewer-mining; there is an old English expression "where there"s muck there"s brass" to which we could add "and where there"s brass, there"s clout".