Mullumbimby Community Action Newsletters

Newsletter Name: Ungrouped

Newsletter List: Search

Originally published 15Jun2009


WHAT HAPPENED re: sewer-on-a-bog


Greetings Community

BOTTOMS UP! What I mean by this is:

a) "Bottoms up" is the toast of the celebratory glass bottoms going up as we toast each other and the 6 Byron Shire Councilors who showed care and concern for our community in their vote last Thursday (more details below).
b) "Bottom up" is the people-propelled change – rather than top-down change from those in charge. Our councilors listened from the bottom-up last week, and we got change! We were inches away from loosing our campaign; luckily we have some savvy people on our team who spotted the noose.
c) Finally, I am thinking of the brown-eye greeting that was given to George W Bush when he came here last year.

WHAT HAPPENED? Last week my newsletters had to be very discrete and strategic. In the Agenda last week, two options were given to the councilors regarding the Woolworths s68 on-site sewage application:

1. To follow the Precautionary Principle and vote "no" (this is what BSC recommended). By giving an alternative option, BSC implied that the Precautionary Principle is disposable.
2. To follow a "pragmatic risk-based approach" and vote "yes" to the s68 as long as Woolworths adopt the "draft consent conditions" annex 31(f).

Notice the language: "pragmatic" sounds so practical, and "risk-based" sounds exciting. In fact the option is very unpragmatic and very risky. The Consent Conditions are tough and Woolworths would have to jump through hoops as well as move the water mains from under the site, at their own expense. The only problem with having tough consent conditions is – who will be watching if Woolworths breaks their consent conditions?

If councilors had voted "no" then Woolworths would have gone to the Land and Environment Court. All they would have to do is show the judge the "Consent Conditions" which are a list of what Woolworths need to do, authorized by staff at Byron Shire Council, to get an approval for their on-site sewer-on-a-bog. Therefore both a "no" and a "yes" vote would have been a win for Wws.

However, our smart MCAN wastewater experts smelled the rat. Garry and Duncan, in conjunction with Tom Tabart formulated 12 questions for council staff and Woolworths which demand to know how the s68 sewer-on-a-bog meets the standards/policies/guidelines of the local/state/national government. Tom put forward a motion to have these questions answered before councillors commit themselves to approving (or otherwise) Woolworths sewage application. We are confident that these questions cannot be answered (we will get them up on our website soon) so it may well be that the Woolworths development will not go ahead until the new sewage treatment plant (STP) is built, and that could be some years away. However, they are a wily bunch and goodness knows what they"ll come up with in the meantime.

Besides Tom, Basil Cameron seconded the motion and the other supporting councillors were Mayor Jan Barham, Richard Staples, Simon Richardson and Patrick Morrisey. Tom gave a lovely metaphor for the Woolworths sewage proposal; for it to work they would need "goat entrails and a PhD in Astrology". Jan spoke passionately about the influx of corporations into the Shire which we"ve worked hard to preserve, as well as expressing distress at the way local councils are being overridden by corporations and State Government; Basil said that asking the 12 questions was a "sensible solution which is the nuts and bolts of this proposal"; Simon described the options offered by staff as being like "being given a bucket with holes in it and being told to put out a fire. We will get burnt". He also mentioned there are cultural, environmental and social implications of having a Wws in Mullumbimby. Richard referred to the "silver bullet" product Wws propose that will supposedly clean/sanitise and not upset the microbes needed for the septic system saying that it would most likely contain large amounts of sodium, also detrimental to soil.

‘WE ARE THE PEOPLE WE"VE BEEN WAITING FOR": quote from Harvard Students about changing the world. I head this quote on ABC Radio National, Background Briefing, today. This was the best synopsis I"ve heard about the world situation, and the way forward, by ex-Greenpeace Global Head Paul Gilding. He is funny and wise as well as very pragmatic (!) and inspiring. The programme will be repeated 7pm Tuesday or you can listen online to "The Great Disruption"

Another interesting snippet this week is SMH/Brisbane Times article

THANKS TO ALL THE PEOPLE who have supported our campaign, written to councillors and sent us words of encouragement and cheer (and cash – hey we still need some more for next round of stickers: Mullum: a Woolworths-free zone). Together we have made a difference. Special thanks to Garry and Duncan for being alert and knowledgeable and to Robert for keeping our website updated all the time. Had a look lately? The full Stateline clip (complete with the final minute which was cut) is up now (thanks to Susie Forster for making this) and the last minute is my best!

As Tom Tabart said, let"s hope this matter can be laid to rest.


Here is Duncan"s synopsis of the ceremony:
On Thursday 6 Councillors (four Greens plus Basil and Patrick) supported MCAN's request to not support the staff recommendation or their report on Woolworths' Section 68 on-site sewage application. In reality, it is an off-site sewage proposal relying heavily on tankers with occasional watering of minor landscaped areas. The application continued to use poor technical advice form Woolworths' same consultant BRW of Toowoomba - who spends more energy denying faults in its proposal than fixing them. The Council Resolution should be on Council's website by now. It asks our Council staff to categorically state that the proposal complies and is quite sound. This of course cannot be said but will be a much healthier report to take to the L&E Court than one saying "... if Council wanted to approve the poor design, they could" and listing all the steps to do so. The report our Councillors have "thrown out" did just that and detailed how approval could be gained. Obviously, it argued the perfect case FOR Woolworths. Hopefully someone in Council now has the hiccups.

© copyright mcan| Website design webmaster Robert Hart   Today's date Thu 23rd Jan 2020 08:57am UTC