Courier Mail, The (Brisbane), 27/06/2006, pg. 16

The big dry

THE first Australian mayor to be dumped from office for backing recycled drinking water has warned Toowoomba Mayor Di Thorley she risks the same fate.

Ten years ago Caboolture Shire residents ditched their mayor, John White, after he had served for 16 years on the council.

He blamed his demise on a plan to recycle purified sewage from the local wastewater treatment plant.

“I didn’t see it as an election issue, but very emotive terms were used and the topic was used to divide the public,” he said.

“One day I was the rooster, the next I was a feather duster.”

Cr Thorley, who plans to contest the 2008 council election, is backing a similar plan for drought-stricken Toowoomba, where residents are facing a July 29 referendum on water recycling.

Mr White warned she risked a similar fate and he called for a co-ordinated approach from the State Government instead of allowing individual councils to cop the flak.

“If (her) opposition chooses to use this as an issue then she will become a feather duster as well,” he said.

He admitted that if he had been able to foresee the deep divisions the debate caused he would have advocated recycling for uses other than drinking.

Cr Thorley said that although she did not underestimate how concerned some residents were about the issue she would not back down.

“I’ve acknowledged that people take this seriously, but I have not seen that as a reason to make me lose courage,” she said.

“I think 1997 in Caboolture was a very different time.

“They weren’t faced with running out of water, no one thought Wivenhoe Dam could run dry and you didn’t have climate change in the media day after day.”

Mr White said he was pleased the debate had led Caboolture to spend millions of dollars to improve its water treatment facilities and to embrace recycling of water for parks, gardens and sporting
fields.

“It defies logic to treat millions of litres of water and then dump it into the ocean,” he said.

In 1999 Caboolture upgraded its sewage treatment works, treating the effluent to A-class standard rather than building an outfall pipeline to Moreton Bay.

The recycled effluent is now used for new housing and industrial developments and major water users including school grounds, the town’s showgrounds and sporting fields, parks and gardens, roadworks and building sites.

Copyright 2006 / Courier Mail