First Nations people have protected the land and water for over 60,000 years. Now we face dry creek beds; bores drying up in great numbers; people waiting over 4 weeks for water delivery; and insufficient water to fight fires. – Dianne Warnes in a petition to Qld State Parliament over water crisis on Mt Tambourine.
There was a time, as teenagers, we used to go to Cedar Creek falls on Mt Tamborine to swim in the cool water of the mountain. The falls ran dry in 2009. Shortage of water is no stranger to the mountain. In the 1980s my sister ran a restaurant on the mountain with her husband and they had to buy water. This was because there is no reticulated water on the mountain and so people rely on tank water which often runs dry.
In 2019 residents of Mt Tamborine are saying that: “A small number of commercial extractors are allowed to take virtually unlimited amounts of water and sell it for bottling. This water leaves the ecosystem forever.”
Scenic Rim Mayor Greg Christensen claims he has no authority to stop the commercial take of water from Mt Tamborine. He told the Guardian: “There is no legal recourse for council to require water suppliers to provide additional water for local use.”
The Natural Resources Minister, Anthony Lynham, claims he does not have the power either; even under emergency situations such as this. In the article below minister Lynham states: ” … groundwater is not regulated on Mount Tamborine and so my department does not have the power to limit take.”
The Tamborine water miners are a veritable who’s who of Queensland politics and business life including: Alan Robert (father of federal MP Stuart Robert), former Qld Premier Bob ‘the Borb’ Borbidge, Henry Palaszczuk (father of current Premier), and former newspaper editor Bob Gordon*. The three commercial operations associated with these individuals send 100 million litres of water a year off the mountain.***
A petition taken up by local residents asks state government to cease commercial extraction for bottled water giving the following reason : “Scenic Rim was drought-declared in May. Tamborine Mountain has no reticulated water. 2019 provided half the average rainfall.”
WBT reprint the text of the petition below.
Climate crisis requires democratic action at local levels to address the lack of water. We encourage people to sign the petition from the local residents – Declare a water emergency and stop bottled water extraction. – Ian Curr, WBT Ed.
TO: The Honourable the Speaker and Members of the Legislative Assembly of Queensland
Queensland residents draw to the attention of the House: Scenic Rim was drought-declared in May. Tamborine Mountain has no reticulated water. 2019 provided half the average rainfall.
First Nations people have protected the land and water for over 60,000 years. Now we face dry creek beds; bores drying up in great numbers; people waiting over 4 weeks for water delivery; and insufficient water to fight fires.
Mountain aquifers feed neighbouring catchments. Canungra’s standpipe closed suddenly in November. The state school had to buy emergency water from off the mountain whilst nearby extractors continued trucking millions of litres to bottlers.
A small number of commercial extractors are allowed to take virtually unlimited amounts of water and sell it for bottling. This water leaves the ecosystem forever.
Commercial extraction provides zero public benefit. Bottled water could be accessed from other sources, where government provided water infrastructure is in place. Extractors pay no royalties to any government. Water trucks are a safety risk and damage the roads.
Under the Water Act 2000, “All rights to the use, flow and control of all water in Queensland are vested in the State.”
Your petitioners, therefore, request the House to:
- declare a water emergency;
- cease commercial extraction for bottled water;
- limit the maximum volume of water a person may take;
- prioritise water supply for domestic supply and natural ecosystems;
- provide updated information about the water available and impacts on ecosystems;
- allocate water for the wellbeing of everyone equally, within limits that can be sustained indefinitely.
Please sign the petition at https://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/work-of-assembly/petitions/petition-details?id=3263
Queensland school runs out of water as commercial bottlers harvest local supplies
Parents have been told to consider keeping Tamborine Mountain state school students at home, while trucks take local water to bottling plants for companies including Coca-Cola
The Tamborine Mountain state school has run out of water, even as water miners in the Gold Coast hinterland are sending millions of litres to commercial bottling operations.
Trucks sent by the Queensland government carrying emergency supplies to the school, including Mount Tamborine bottled water, have been passing trucks heading in the opposite direction taking local water to bottling plants for beverage giants such as Coca-Cola.
The school remains open but parents have been advised by teachers to consider keeping their children at home.
Water miners in the Mount Tamborine area supply roughly 130million litres of water each year to commercial bottling operations. Now the local bores are running dry.
What lies beneath: Tamborine Mountain and its fears over corporate ‘spring water’
“I was staggered,” one local resident, Craig Peters, told Guardian Australia. “It was more or less the final straw for me. The school’s bore is 50 metres deep and has never ever had these issues before.”
“We had an award ceremony at the school yesterday and earlier in the day [the school] sent out an SMS about the water situation.
“At the conclusion of that ceremony they said give serious consideration to not sending kids to school for the rest of the week because of the lack of water.
“The school bore has been operating since the school was there. There’s many other bores that have run dry. We are the largest community in Australia that doesn’t have reticulated water. If it doesn’t rain, people get water trucked in to fill their tanks.
“Now the government is buying water back from Coca-Cola to bring here, which is where it came from in the first place.”
The education department said it would continue to deliver water to the school until the end of the school holidays.
Residents said the situation was a tipping point and would concentrate longstanding concern that the local water supply should be prioritised above the three commercial operations, which between them have approvals to send roughly 2.5m litres a week down the mountain.
The situation seems to fall into a regulatory void, with no mechanism to halt commercial operations in times of severe drought or ensure that local water is allocated to locals.
Peters said the community wanted the state’s natural resources minister, Anthony Lynham, to use emergency powers to prioritise local supply.
Lynham said in a statement he understood the concerns of residents and the impact of the drought on their water supply.
“As I have previously said, groundwater is not regulated on Mount Tamborine and so my department does not have the power to limit take.
“I do have the power to limit take in a declared water shortage – but that is everyone’s take, including local farmers, households, and businesses.”
“QUT research says levels of groundwater extraction are equivalent to less than five per cent of average annual groundwater recharge.
“Of that five per cent, farmers use almost 84 per cent of the extracted groundwater for horticulture, households almost 11 per cent, and bottled water operations, about five per cent.”
The Scenic Rim council has responsibility for monitoring the commercial water miners and ensuring they comply with their development conditions.
In September the Scenic Rim mayor, Greg Christensen, tabled a mayoral minute that raised concern about the situation. It said authorities had no legal recourse to prioritise local supply in times of drought.
‘Greed took over’: the farmers fighting bottled water giants for their water
“Council is aware that local water carriers are expressing concerns that the supply of water for household delivery on Tamborine Mountain is reduced, and with no rain predicted soon, may become critical,” Christensen said.
“Additional water supplies (bores) are being sought to supplement existing supplies to cope with increased demand. Any commercial water extractor on the mountain is doing so in the context of relevant approvals and therefore a legitimate use.
“There is no legal recourse for council to require water suppliers to provide additional water for local use. Once a development has been approved, it may continue to conduct the use indefinitely as approved.”
Past studies have pointed to negligible impacts from groundwater extraction operations, and that the water table can replenish itself through rainfall.
But Peters – who supplies water from his property for local consumption – said the situation had changed. The drought, which dried out nearby Gondwana rainforest that burned in spring bushfires, has bitten hard.
“The water patterns have changed,” Peters said. “What might have potentially been a sustainable business at one point in time, that’s no longer sustainable.”
12 Dec 2019**