It was the issue that galvanised Cr Debbie Blumel into standing for Mayor in the 2012 Sunshine Coast Council election. So it is fitting that her first major campaign announcement is her water reform policy, aptly named ‘Community Water’, which will return control of water to the community, create new types of jobs and drive down the price of water.
“Community Water is for community, by community and with community,” said Cr Blumel after listening to people at weekend market stalls across the Sunshine Coast this year. “The Community Water Policy is for the benefit of our regional community. It is about community ownership, affordable water and new types of jobs in clean-tech industries.
“It’s time to stop the rot! There is a real crisis of confidence in the current approach to water.
“The water institutions are trapped by the demands of their old technology. They need population growth to pay for upgrades. They are unable to put community and environment first.
“Development companies want to be free of Unitywater too. But the only alternatives are private, international companies that will take profits off-shore. Those companies are now on our doorstep.
“Over the past four years, when I have proposed change, people with vested interests in the current water industry scream blue murder and then attack the messenger.
“Courage and visionary political leadership is necessary to achieve reform.
“On the Sunshine Coast, in March 2012, we can choose courage and vision to achieve reform.
“We could choose to continue along the path to higher priced water, corporatisation, and eventually private ownership of water services and profiteering.
“Or we could choose water harvesting and beneficial re-use systems and community ownership for a safe, affordable and sustainable future.
The centrepiece of Cr Blumel’s Community Water Policy is evolving Community Water Ltd (CWL) into a not-for-profit water services provider that leads the way with research, training and job creation.
“Through CWL’s projects, we will seed business development opportunities and new jobs, innovative environmental know-how, and community empowerment,” said Cr Blumel.
“My vision is to develop CWL into the Sunshine Coast’s pre-eminent water research and development organisation. It will work in partnership with universities and TAFE to undertake applied research and train our future workforce in the emerging clean-technologies.”
Cr Blumel said that her Community Water Policy would also make housing more affordable. “Research shows that developer holding costs can be reduced by 10 to 30 per cent by adopting decentralised water systems. That saving can be passed on to home buyers, improving housing affordability,” she said.
“In addition, these integrated water management systems can achieve over 80 per cent water self-sufficiency for the communities they serve.
“But the best outcome is that the entire region stands to benefit financially when the desalination plant slated for Marcoola is deferred indefinitely or abandoned altogether.
“We will all pay dearly, and so will our children and grandchildren, if the Marcoola Desalination Plant has to be built.”
“Through Community Water, we will put the Sunshine Coast on the map for having the backbone to turn our business acumen and technical ingenuity to the benefit of our regional community instead of corporate water giants.”