This is an Australian track.
Uki resident speaks out against water extraction during drought
Julie Beesley, featuring Uki resident Rosie (last name withheld)
‘I think we've all realised the water bottling industry is a crazy one in this day and age,’ says Rosie from her home in Uki, a small hinterland village in the Tweed shire.
Until recent years, Uki was relatively unknown beyond its vintage shopping and untouched nature.
But the region has been embroiled in a battle over water that has made national news on the ABC.
Water bottling benefits only ‘a few’ says Uki local
Several water bottling companies are allowed to operate in the Tweed Shire, where residents and other businesses have been hit with water restrictions.
‘The Australian tap water is the highest quality and people shouldn't have any concerns about drinking it,’ says Rosie.
Rosie says she is concerned water as a resource is being sold off by private companies and ‘leaving the ecosystem for good’.
She says one company In particular is taking a million litres of water per week from the upper reaches of the Tweed River.
‘I mean, where we live is in between two national parks, Nightcap and Mount Warning,’ she says from Uki, ‘we should be far more careful with how we’re managing these national parks’.
National parks protected by law
Rose says the national parks are protected by a federal act, the EPBC Act, and are UNESCO protected Heritage property.
‘It just seems that decisions that have been made with NSW Water and with our local council have been made In haste and have considered business rather than the environment,’ she says.
‘The only people people benefitting are very few people in the local area and I suppose the bottling industry.
‘But the repercussions on the ecosystem and the local community are huge.’
Rosie says the community is living in a state of anxiety ‘that their hill might be next’.
‘Just waiting for the fire to come’ says villager
‘We've watched the fires on Nightcap over the last several weeks,’ she says, ‘we know the people that are volunteering out there to fight the fires’.
‘We know people who have lost parts of their property, we know children who are in fear because they smell the smoke nearby, we know families that had to move out of their homes while they thought the fires were getting close.
‘The rainforests are dry, the leaves are turning brown on the hills, she says, ‘if a fire goes through, it will go through very quickly and we don't have water to fight fire’.
‘The creeks are dry, the upper reaches of the Tweed River stopped running ages ago.
‘None of the tributaries are running, so we’re sitting on the hills feeling like we're just waiting for the fire to come.’
Meanwhile, tankers head to the Gold Coast
‘Meanwhile,’ Rosie says, ‘we watch these tankers leave every day, massive tankers going out of the valley going to the Gold Coast to put spring water into bottles, taking water from our ecosystem’.
The people of Uki live ‘a simple life’, Rosie says.
‘They don't require much but they do require basic water’.
She says she would never normally go to local council meetings but water bottling has been ‘a big issue’ and she wanted to watch the councillors ‘in action’.
A villager’s take on council meetings: transparency is key to trust
So far, Rosie says she has been’ impressed’ with Mayor Katie Milne and Councillors Chris Cherry and Ron Cooper for their support of the mayor.
She is also pleased to report Councillor Reece Byrnes as having changed his views and as wanting to adopt a ‘precautionary principle’.
But as for the other Tweed Shire councillors, the long-time councillor and former mayor, Warren Polglase, James Owen from Sydney, and Muwillumbah business ownerPryce Allsop, Rosie says she‘just doesn't understand their thinking’.
‘They have consistently voted in favour of water mining, in favour of increased extraction,’ she says, ‘none of them voted in favour of our shire council declaring a climate emergency’.
‘These three councillors simply do not seem to represent their constituents.
‘I just don't understand who they're working for if they're not working for the constituents who are up in arms alarmed at the direction the shire council is going in.’
Rosie says Councillors Polglase, Owen and Allsop ‘don't give any reason why they aren't supporting the concerns of their constituents’.
‘They didn't explain why they voted in favour of the increased water extractions,’ she says, ‘however the other councillors consistently give reasons for their voting’.
‘People move here because they love the hinterland, they love the coast, they love nature, the beauty,’ she says, ‘they don't move here for development’.
‘We cannot be using the resources that provide for tourism.’
Call for water minister to step in
The Uki villager says she believes many other communities are feeling the same way hers is and is calling on the state’s water minister to consider a temporary ban on water extraction for bottling while the region is in drought.
‘I think for Melinda Pavey, this is a chance for her to stand up and to represent New South Wales, the majority of which is on fire or in drought.’