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Queensland: Toowoomba votes against recycling water.

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Monday 31 July 2006

Queensland: Toowoomba votes against recycling water


ELIZABETH JACKSON: Toowoomba residents might have given the thumbs down to water recycling with a resounding no vote on the weekend, but the Queensland Premier Peter Beattie says the rest of the state will have to decide for themselves when they face a referendum in 2008. 


Toowoomba's liquid future is uncertain, and so too is the debate about whether Australians are prepared to seriously consider recycling as the solution to the water crisis.  


Environmentalists and leading scientists say they're disappointed by the vote and hope it's not a fatal blow to the cause. 


Nicole Bond reports from Toowoomba.  


(Sound of choir singing) 


NICOLE BOND: The divisive recycling vote may be behind them, but Toowoomba residents are still praying for a solution to the water crisis. 


(Sound of priest giving sermon) 


There's a sense of victory though, amongst the two-thirds majority who canned the project. 


VOX POP 1: Not going recycle. Recycle is against God, against the creation. You know what I mean? 


VOX POP 2: You know, I think they've got to find alternatives, and sewage, I can't get my head around that at all. 


NICOLE BOND: Visitors have been left to ponder the impact on other cities looking to solve their water woes. 


VOX POP 3: Yeah, I think they need to look at the long-term and not just what's happening to the real estate prices today. Yeah, they're pathetic. 


NICOLE BOND: After a 13-month campaign that ended in defeat, the city's Mayor Di Thorley is now looking east to Queensland's capital for help. 


DI THORLEY: We still don't have a water project, and I would imagine that we'll be getting water from the south-east corner, and we'll be depending on the Premier to provide that to this city. 


NICOLE BOND: The Queensland Premier Peter Beattie says he'll take the issue to a referendum in the south-east, including Brisbane in 2008. 


PETER BEATTIE: We would never use indirect recycled water unless the people voted for it in a referendum in March 2008, and even then, even then we would only use it if there was an Armageddon situation, that is, we had no other alternatives.  


NICOLE BOND: But 2008 is too far away, according to environmental lobbyist Ian Kiernan, who admits the Toowoomba decision is a blow to the cause. 


IAN KIERNAN: The false claims that were made to frighten the community were absolutely damaging. We need a national water policy so that the Government can come to grips with the global fresh water crisis. It's about securing the water for the future of this country. 


NICOLE BOND: Professor Peter Cullen from the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists is one of Australia's leading water researchers. 


He sits on the National Water Commission and is hopeful the resounding no vote hasn't wiped recycling off the agenda. 


PETER CULLEN: Australians have got to understand that much of our country is now drying out, and the options for finding new water for these communities is getting harder and harder.  


NICOLE BOND: Is there one option that stands out, nationally, as being the answer to the water crisis? 


PETER CULLEN: No, I think that's the problem. To be smart about this we've got to make sure we look at all the options, and of course the most reliable source is recycling or desalination. 


NICOLE BOND: The Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Water, Malcolm Turnbull, says it won't be long before another city is facing the same issue. 


MALCOLM TURNBULL: Inland cities will tend to come to this crunch much sooner than coastal cities. And I think most communities would not embrace indirect Potable Reuse of recycled water if there are other equally viable economic, environmental options available to them.  


ELIZABETH JACKSON: Malcolm Turnbull ending that report from Nicole Bond in Toowoomba.