Coast’s water security to be debated at Council meeting

Mangrove Creek Dam in 2007 at it's low pointMangrove Creek Dam in 2007 at it's low point. Archive 2007

Councillor Greg Best will reintroduce a motion about water security at the Monday, September 10, Council meeting, because he said it was “ignored” at the last meeting.
The motion was on the agenda for the August 27 meeting, but he was absent.
Clrs Jilly Pilon and Troy Marquart attempted to have the matter deferred but a majority of Councillors determined to debate the matter.
“Let’s move it now and get on with it, it will take five minutes now, or five hours if we defer to next meeting,” said Clr Doug Vincent.
“There are those of us in this room who take this drought very seriously and would like to see it acted upon.
“If that is the intention of this motion, we should act on it tonight,” said Clr Kyle MacGregor.
Amendments led to a request for a report from CEO, Gary Murphy, and a resolution to encourage community support for drought relief.
“Council never resolved on the original motion, they ignored it,” Clr Best said after the meeting.
His resubmitted notice of motion, called Central Coast Water Security Risk Minimisation, noted that NSW is now declared 100 per cent drought affected.
Clr Best will call for Council to “proactively and responsibly consider all water security options for our 339,000 residents.
“Further to the valuable lessons learnt around the crippling 2002 Central Coast drought, that Council now review its water restrictions pathways, with a view to raising the first restriction trigger level from 42 per cent.
“Council request that the CEO report to Council on our general water security status and risk minimisation opportunities, including an update around Council’s water ‘safetynet’, the Lakes Beach Desal Facility.”
Best said the development application for the desalination plant at Lakes Beach had been “fully approved” and achieved commencement.
He said the approval process had been “extraordinarily complex and rigorous”.
“It could still take quite some years to get it operational, and as a last resort safety net, I believe it is Council’s responsibility to keep that DA on the shelves.
“Managing water in Australia, in any city, is a high wire act.”
Best said the 20 per cent drop in the level of Mangrove Dam during the past 12 months had given him a sense of déjà vu.
“I remember sitting in the office with the Mayor of the time in 2002, deciding to declare the drought.
“I sat through private discussions in Council when we were trying to find the rolling stock for a water freight train because the dam was trending at 10 per cent.
“I am trying to provide a conversation within the Council about our water security.
“This Council has never been briefed by staff on our current water security situation.”
He said he was concerned by the current complacency of some within and on Council.
Since the last drought, the maximum legal capacity of Mangrove Dam had been reduced to 80 per cent, to shore up the safety of the dam wall.
According to Clr Best, the storage levels of the dam have been recalibrated, so the current 61 per cent levels reflect the new capacity.
He said he would like staff to tell Councillors and the community: “How many years of consumption have we got with nil rainfall?”
Best said he believed the answer would be anywhere from two to four years “and that is before we allow for another 40,000 people.”
He wants Council to discuss the prospect of raising the dam wall, estimated to cost $20m, which could be paid for from NSW Government Snowy Hydro funding.
“Clearly if the Central Coast is going to continue on its population growth trajectory, it is fundamental to secure our water supply.”
According to Clr Best, the pipeline agreement with the Hunter is two-way, and may result in water flowing from Mangrove to the Hunter if drought levels are more extreme than those being experienced on the Coast.

Source: Agenda item 7.4, Aug 27, Central Coast ordinary meeting
Notice of motion, Sep 10. Interview, Sep 3, Greg Best, Central Coast Council Jackie Pearson, journalist

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