Bores, Arsenic, Drinking Water and Subdivision in Koah


FOE Questions the Subdividing of KOAH until Issues of Water are Resolved

see Cairns Post Article Nov 19 2016

Mareeba Shire Council continues to subdivide Koah region without solving water issues. Mareeba Shire Council is giving different messages regarding its responsibilities regarding safe drinkable water.

Planner Brian Millard wrote to Kuranda Region Planning Group that

“In terms of planning requirements for subdivisions outside of a reticulated water supply network, the developer must show an adequate water supply.”

He suggests it’s up to the owners to test and treat their own water. But this appears to contradict other advice and regulations attached to subdivisions.

It’s true that Council is not directly responsible for bore water quality. However when the Planning Department of the MSC makes a subdivision subject to potable water (“each lot must be provided with potable water”) this surely means that the water is drinkable and not just available. 

Foe FNQ is assuming that the definition of “potable” is drinkable according to particular Standards. Who's responsibility is it?

The matter came up in the Koah community BBQ as Friends of the Earth testers had received the first bore water results that day showing elevated levels of arsenic. Both the CEO and Councillor Nipper Brown stated in front of a big audience that rural-residential subdivisions were subject to conditions referencing water.

When asked if that was only availability/quantity they said: “No, it means both”. [Both sufficient water, and quality, water] They indicated that they thought the water must be drinkable, safe, potable.

In fact the following seems to be a standard condition. It’s found for example in approval “DA/16/0005 1 lot into 2 lots” in Koah. This development application was  approved AGAINST planners’ recommendation as per Council minutes 02 March 2016.

Council continues to subdivide despite no adequate water

Another recent example referencing the quality of the water follows:

Approval DA/16/0009 reconfiguration of lot 1 into 4 or DA/15/0056 1 lot into 2 both in Koah as per Council agenda 01 June 2016 state :

4.4 Non-reticulated Water Supply

4.4.1 Each Lot must be provided with a potable water supply via bore or by water rights to a perennial stream in accordance with Planning Scheme Policy No. 1 - Water Supply (Outside Reticulated Water Supply Area).

4.4.2 Where a bore is to be used as a source of water, bore installation will be in accordance with the requirements of D6.07 of the FNQROC Development Manual.

4.4.3 Where a bore is to be used as a source of potable water, it will be sited in accordance with the setback distances specified in the Queensland Plumbing and Wastewater Code.

4.4.4 The applicant/developer must demonstrate that any source of potable water supply can satisfy the standards for drinking water set by the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines 2004 (National Health and Medical Research Council and the National Resource Management Ministerial Council).

4.4.5 Rainwater tanks will not be accepted as a means of potable water supply for either allotment.

4.4.6 If an existing bore is proposed as a potable water supply for any lot, this bore must comply with 4.4.2 (minimum sustainable yield only), 4.4.3 and 4.4.4 above.

Furthermore, the following segment from the 2004 MSC planning scheme also says:

PART 8 –  


PLANNING SCHEME POLICY 1 Water Supply (Outside Reticulated Water Supply Area)


This Policy applies to development within the Shire and sets down the requirement for subdivision of land not connected to a reticulated water supply and outside the reticulated water supply areas, as delineated on Maps CGO_Water, DIM_Water, MOL_Water, KUR_Water, MBA_Water.


Before the survey plan for the subdivision of land is signed and sealed by Council, each allotment created has an adequate water supply, either by water rights to a perennial stream, chemically suitable for human consumption, in accordance with standards required by the National Health and Research Council's guidelines for Drinking Water Quality in Australia, or via water bore constructed to the following standards:

(i) A water bore shall be constructed on each proposed lot.

(ii) The bores must produce a sustainable yield of no less than one (1) litre per second, as determined by a four (4) hour pump test in accordance with AS2368-1990 “Test Pumping of Water Wells” and pump test analysis, including observations of potential interference between bores, by a person qualified in groundwater hydrology.

(iii) Water samples shall be collected from the bores in accordance with AS2368-1990 and analysed by a NATA registered laboratory or other laboratory as approved by Council. Water must be chemically suitable for human consumption in accordance with the “Australian Drinking Water Guidelines” issued by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

(iv) The casement of the bores shall not exceed 125mm in diameter.

(v) The placement of the bores shall be determined by a qualified person satisfactory to Council in conjunction with the placement of any wastewater disposal system to be used on the allotment.

(vi) The bore holes shall be cased and sealed at its surface to prevent the inflow of contaminated surface water to the satisfaction of Council’s Plumbing Inspector.

(vii) The bores shall be sunk to a minimum depth of 60 metres, or until the bore reaches bedrock.

Friends of the Earth find this matter confusing as the Kuranda Region Planning Group is receiving conflicting information from Council.

As residents health and safety is at stake Council should inform residents who were promised potable water that they might not have any unless their water underwent comprehensive testing and the test results prove it.

And where residents have now no potable water Council should consider compensation as it neglected to make certain of it as the applicant/developer had to demonstrate that any source of potable water supply can satisfy the standards for drinking water set by the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines 2004.


What you can do: Write to MSC.  Write to LGAQ.  Write to EDO Queensland

Suggest that further subdivisions in the Koah area should be refused until water issues are resolved.

Friends of the Earth FNQ questions whether Mareeba Council should be encouraging and approving subdivisions in rural areas that have limited access to safe water.

Sample correspondence:

Mareeba Shire Council should stop subdividing Koah

  1. MSC should publicly acknowledge that water in the region is scarce and water issues unlikely to be solved

  2. The area should remain as farmland or be rehabilitated for ecological corridors.

  3. Owners of bores should be warned of high levels of arsenic in the water.

  4. Current residents and owners should be supported to find sustainable solutions to water issues.

  5. Water courses being sourced for water should be tested monthly for chemicals actually used in the region.