Attempts to prevent water mining in Alpine Shire may be abandoned by the council after staff admitted they had no power to stop groundwater being used for bottled water businesses.
Alpine, Indigo and Towong councils joined together to support draft changes to their planning schemes in November last year, which would allow concerns over dust, noise, traffic impact and visual impacts to be considered when assessing water mining applications.
The councils are on record as having concerns about groundwater being taken out of the region for bottled water.
But a recent court case, where a group of Stanley residents failed to stop a water extraction company, has shown the limitation of councils.
The residents group was instead ordered to pay $90,000 in legal costs.
“It appears likely that the proposed amendment would not have any practical effect in regulating the activities of water extraction for commercial bottling purposes,” the Alpine Council report stated.
“It is therefore incumbent upon the Victorian government to consider changes to the Water Act and/or Planning and Environment Act that would be needed to ensure that amenity impacts from the extraction of water can be adequately addressed.
“It is clear that this matter is outside the powers available to local governments at this time.”
Towong and Indigo councils were consulted and supported Alpine’s decision to abandon changes to the planning scheme.
Councillors will vote on the decision at Tuesday night’s council meeting, to be held at the Bright Council Chambers from 7pm.
Meanwhile, a petition addressed to Asahi Beverages, the Albury-based company which bottles the water taken from Stanley, has amassed more than 12,500 signatures.
It states the aim is to send a message that “people and planet come before profit”.
“Every week, water miners pump hundreds of thousands of litres of groundwater from the town, then truck it away to be bottled and sold by one of the world’s largest beverage companies: Asahi-Schweppes,” the petition stated.
“This tiny community in the Australian state of Victoria is totally reliant on groundwater to sustain the fruit and nut orchards which have provided the livelihood of the town’s 370 residents for over a century.”
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