Tamborine Mountain residents in Queensland told they cannot access 'emergency' water

Ben Smee
Tamborine Mountain residents in Queensland told they cannot access 'emergency' water. Local council says owners of unapproved bores must cut off supply to community in the middle of water crisis

Local authorities at Tamborine Mountain have demanded the owners of unapproved bores stop supplying “emergency” water to residents, despite a worsening water crisis in parts of the Queensland Gold Coast hinterland community.

With bores running dry and rainwater tanks empty, local anger has been focused on the three commercial water extraction operations that send away a combined 100m litres of water a year to be bottled and sold.

Last week, in response to that criticism, one of the extractors, Cedar Creek Estate Winery and Vineyard, said it intended to supply water from an unapproved bore for distribution around Tamborine Mountain.

Cedar Creek managing director John Penglis acknowledged last week that he did not have approval for the bore from the Scenic Rim council, but would instead rely on section 166 of the Queensland planning act that allows activities in the event of an emergency.

The council has since sought to block Cedar Creek from supplying water from the new bore to a local water carrying service. Guardian Australia has seen a council enforcement notice sent to a second business, Pure Mountain, claiming a state of emergency does not exist and demanding any unapproved water supply cease.

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It claims that because water carriers can access off-mountain water supply from neighbouring authorities – in Logan and the Gold Coast – the operation of the new bores is not necessary.

Last week Guardian Australia reported there was a six-week wait for water deliveries to fill empty tanks, and that locals had become increasingly desperate.

The primary school bore ran dry on 11 December.

In a joint statement on Monday night, three community groups – the Tamborine Mountain Chamber of Commerce, Tamborine Mountain Progress Association and Save Our Water – said the actions by the council lacked empathy for locals in the midst of a water supply crisis.

“The facts are clear, there is a lack of immediately available local water with a current six week wait time unless water is sourced from the Gold Coast or Logan (as Canungra standpipe is now closed),” the statement said.

“These off-mountain deliverers are at a higher cost, which creates a significant financial burden to businesses and families. Some families and businesses are doing it tough and are not able to afford high water delivery costs on top of other bills. Many businesses are still recovering from the effects of the fire and loss of trade.

“We have a duty of care to all residents including the elderly, the young
and those with serious health issues who are very vulnerable when it comes to water use, both for drinking, cooking and showering.

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“Due to their already challenging circumstances many of these residents are already constrained financially. The cavalier and dismissive suggestion from council to use water trucked in from Logan and the Gold Coast leads to a huge increase in the price of water. This is not a reasonable alternative nor is it needed, because locally there is water which could be accessed.

“While the council says ‘no’ without consultation, and wastes time liaising with water utilities and the broader water carrier industry, local residents continue to suffer, and bores continue to dry up or perform worse without the council supporting a resolution in sight.”

In a statement explaining why it took enforcement action, the council said establishing any new bulk water supply tanks or pumping facilities without development approval was a breach of the Planning Act.

“The activity of extracting water without the appropriate authority is only deemed necessary under section 166 of the Planning Act if there is an imminent and definite threat requiring immediate action to ensure a person’s life or health is not endangered,” the statement said.

“Council will continue to proactively monitor the situation to assess if the thresholds for the section 166 application are triggered.

“Council recognises water supply is a serious issue for residents and businesses in our communities as a result of the drought. Council strongly urges communities to prepare and plan ahead by booking bulk water delivery with enough lead time to meet their needs.”