Government to increase Alice water allocation


Sir – The Arid Lands Environment Centre (ALEC) has learned that the recently released Alice Springs Water Allocation Plan is back to the drawing board following comments by Alice Springs Town Councillor Steve Brown in the Alice Springs News Online and the Council Chambers in April.
Brown claimed that having a “cap” on Power and Water Corporation’s extraction from the Mereenie Aquifer would lead to “stagnation” of the town and proceeded to lobby Council and Cabinet for the “cap’” to be removed.
This “cap” is a target that was the result of 10 years of community consultation in developing a Water Allocation Plan. Councillor Brown has come in at the last minute, not participated in the process at all and sent a wrecking ball into what is a great example of long-term resource planning.
The disturbing news was delivered to me in a recent meeting with Department of Land Resource Management Chief Executive, Rod Applegate. In that meeting it was revealed that the Draft Alice Springs Water Allocation Plan launched by Minister Westra van Holthe on World Water Day (March 22) would be re-drafted, with large allocations for industrial purposes – and reduce the current projected life of the aquifer from over 300 years to around 200 years.
Councillor Brown’s lobbying has unwittingly wrested control from the community and placed it in the hands of Darwin-based bureaucrats. The “cap” was a driver of innovation and water efficiency locally, leading to the water recycling plant being built, $7.5 million of Federal funding for the Alice Water Smart program  and the continuation of the NT Government’s Waterwise rebate scheme.
This revelation is a slap in the face for water conscious Alice Springs residents who are making significant water and dollar savings in their homes and businesses. There is currently no demand for large-scale industrial use of our water in Alice Springs. The “cap” is not a barrier to business, in the long term, unsustainable water allocation.
Jimmy Cocking (pictured)

Director Arid Lands Environment Centre (ALEC)
Alice Springs Water Advisory Committee member


  1. Jimmy you were lucky enough to be part of one of the world’s great democracies where public policy is subject to the rigours of public scrutiny and necessary final majority approval before coming into being.
    As an elected community representative and long term local, I find at times these little pockets of secretive bureaucratic policy making, paying nothing but lip service to community consultation, clearly corrupted by the idealistic aspirations of some disaffected minority.
    I see it as both my role and duty, to drag them kicking and screaming if necessary, into the full glare of the public’s gaze. This allows the community a chance to cast “their” judgement! To have “their” say! Any “judgement” is not determined by me, but by the quality of the policy and the weight of argument presented.
    The questions is why you and your organisation, one that is fully funded by the public purse, see it as their role to cast judgement on these matters and to go to such lengths to influence policy outcomes particularly when the sole intent appears to be that of throwing spanners in the wheels of progress, all on the basis of some imported agenda.
    This may well have no basis in Local expertise, history, knowledge of resources or opportunities, or for that matter some indicated intention to succeed at anything other than squashing our region’s development.
    The Alice Springs Town Council role in what was known as the “Watersmart Program” had nothing to do with any attempt to influence or direct public policy relating to water allocation.
    The council’s role was truly “water smart” inasmuch as it consisted of the installation of a centrally controlled watering system for parks and gardens. This system allows the monitoring of watering requirements at any given time and as such allows the Ccouncil to minimize its water use by only watering when and to the amount required, resulting in considerable savings in yearly water use. A very useful and sensible outcome, I’m sure we would all agree.
    The recycling of our sewage water is something with which I am sure the entire community would agree, not the half hearted token effort now underway, although it is a beginning, but the full recycling of what amounts to some two thirds of what we pump.
    We absolutely must put this water to good use in industrial and agricultural projects along with the provision of non potable water for our parks and gardens.
    The present evaporation of, or the so called filling of dry aquifers should be seen as a sacrilegious waste of a very precious and expensive resource.
    We have available vast expanses of empty land – put that together with this water and the opportunities for wealth and employment creation are almost endless!
    Given that for the first time in many years we have a government in the north that is amenable to growth in our region it is absolutely beyond time we got on with it! Now is the moment!
    The clever non wasteful use of our resources should be the desired outcome of everybody. However the evangelistic agendas based on restriction for the sake of restriction resulting in a lessening of our quality of life. The goals of a few fanatics who appear not to posses even a basic understanding of the available resource, yet are prepared to stand in the way of our future development, need to be resoundingly rejected.
    Our community has been blessed with an amazing resource one that when put to use sensibly will allow sustainable development of many employment and wealth generating opportunities for our community, both now and into the future.
    Nobody is suggesting that we waste our most precious asset but sitting on it with teeth clenched against all-comers while our community wallows in welfare misery and dependency is morally reprehensible, short sighted and completely unjustifiable.

  2. Steve: You comment eloquently about the commonsense of using our water resources wisely and maximising the re-use options. Why concepts like caps or rules that would encourage wise use and reuse should be found so offensive is a mystery.
    Take a look around the world and you will find multitudes of communities with serious water resource limits who have embraced rules and caps.
    Maybe it is a mark of this community’s forward thinking that they embrace such concepts before they face the threats so many other communities do.


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