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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Bundanoon votes to boycott Bottled Water

The meeting was Chaired by Huw Kingston, of the "Bundy on Tap" Committee.
Huw Kingston
The Welcome to Country was given by Dr Virginia Falk, a Bundanoon resident, on behalf of the Dharawal and Gundangara peoples of the Southern Highlands region. Dr Falk has recently completed her PhD and spoke about an Aboriginal perspective on water issues. Her concluding remarks were: "Water has a spiritual and cultural integrity of its own".
Jon Dee then showed a 60 Minutes program originally shown in April 2009, on bottled water. (Transcript available here.)This DVD showed how ludicrously expensive boutique bottle water is, thanks to extravagant marketing strategies. The highest cost quoted was for "Cloud Juice" from King Island in Tasmania, which is exported to fancy European restaurants where it is sold for as much as $27 per bottle.
Jon then ran though a PowerPoint presentation showing how plastic is creating enormous problems for the environment.
We were told it takes 200 ml of oil to create, and transport 1 litre of water in a plastic bottle. (In the 60 Minutes report that was simplified down to "it takes 200 ml of oil to make a plastic bottle", but that is not accurate.)
Apparently most of the plastic used to make bottles is imported.
Australians spend half a billion Dollars on bottled water every year.

When questions were called, Geoff Parker from the Australasian Bottle Water Institute Inc spoke. He wondered why Bundanoon, a tourist oriented village would be restricting the freedom of choice of potential visitors to the town (by denying them the freedom to drink their favourite bottled waters).

In response, Jon Dee took him apart (quite vehemently), by pointing out that the Bottled Water Industry (which Geoff represents) was denying freedom of choice to the people of Bundanoon by proposing to build a bottled water plant here, that the people opposed. (Loud applause).

Then the Chairman, Huw Kingston, called on the vote (in the middle of the debate), to allow the media representatives to file their stories. (Now that's a revolutionary approach to democracy in action, folks).

Official tally: 354 for; and 2 against - the Bottled Water guy and one other person who had a concern about diabetics.
I did not fully understand this man's point, as he was not allowed to properly explain his concerns, because they were deemed "not relevant to the point of the meeting". Another victim of a bulldozer response by the Chairman.

***** ***** ***** *****
So, what is the outcome? Bundanoon has proclaimed itself to be "Australia's first Bottled-water-free Village". In my opinion, I think it is a good thing to do. I support that decision.

However, I am unclear why the organisers specifically restricted the motion to "still water (only)". The logic behind that distinction eludes me. It smacks of a private deal having been arranged on the side, to not campaign against carbonated mineral waters. If so, it is doubly ironic in view of the supposed concern about the "carbon footprint" of bottled water. Surely "carbonated waters" are doubly undesirable?

Back to the meeting: At a packed Hall on Wednesday evening, 8 July some 354 people in favour of proclaiming themselves "bottled-water-free". Two people voted against, one of whom was a representative of the Australasian Bottled Water Institute Inc. That's pretty conclusive evidence of the feeling of the meeting against Bottled Water.What is not clear - from that statistic, nor from the Press Statements put out by the organisers of the meeting, after the event was why people were voting the way they did.
The Hall filling up - before the meeting.
The Press reports the organisers of the meeting as claiming: "The voluntary ban has been triggered by concerns about the carbon footprint associated with bottling and transporting the water".

That is what they would like you to think - for it fits Jon Dee's politically correct image as a "nice" environmental campaigner. Jon is renowned as someone who likes to "work with business" to improve the outcomes. He demonstrated that approach at the meeting, with constant exposure of his sponsor's logos.The outcome of this campaign will be closely monitored, you can rest assured.

Back to the claim about what the people of Bundanoon were actually demonstrating their support for last night. What chance do you think you would have to persuade 356 people to turn up to a village hall to campaign against carbon footprint of bottled water? I shall leave you to ponder that question. Let me simply suggest you would get about 35 people, (on a good night) - not 365!

To me, it is self-evident that the reason so many people turned up at the meeting was the long-running battle against the establishment of a Norlex (company) water bottling plant within the village.

Norlex has been opposed vehemently in the village by the "Don't Bore Bundanoon" campaign. At one time, nearly every house in Bundanoon had a "Don't Bore Bundanoon" placard on a stick stuck in their front lawn. That campaign has been going since early 2007.

What the mainstream Media will not tell you is that the Norlex company was granted approval to develop a factory facility in Anzac Pde, Bundanoon - just hours before this meeting was held.

Not only will the mainstream Media not tell you. The meeting organisers tried to prevent that message getting out - to the assembled people of Bundanoon. Clearly they were afraid they would lose control of the meeting.

The fact of Council's earlier vote on the Norlex DA was reported to the meeting, by Mr Peter Falk, and later by Ian Scandrett, and Adrian Shafer, and a lady whose name I do not know. Each of these persons had their comments ruled "out of order", and discussion quickly moved on towards a very narrowly pre-determined outcome.

Supposedly we were not allowed to discuss this because the Norlex company is appealing a disputed Development Application in the land and Environment Court. How could that prevent us from discussing the other Norlex DA application? It does not make sense - other than the organisers of the meeting were terrified they would lose control of the meeting - and they had stage-managed everything so carefully (so far). Huw Kingston had a look of blind panic in his eyes when Peter Falk made his statement and Huw was positively rude in the way he shut Peter up. and denied Adrian the right to speak about Council's decision.

That fact of the Council's decision was surely relevant, as Council had just approved it on that very afternoon. And that decision by Council could not have been "sub judice" as there is not case in dispute - Norlex had already won that case! So why were these people prevented from speaking about this issue?

The answer lies hidden below a load of feel good rhetoric, and self-authorised press releases put out by the organisers of the meeting. Fair enough - they did the work. They are entitled to feed the media. I just object to the Spin that they put on the story.

This is Bundanoon's own version of "Spin the Bottle". They were basking in their own vision of glory.

To believe that the assembled people of Bundanoon were protesting a carbon footprint of bottled water is a self-serving (wet) dream of the promoters of this meeting.
Trust me, I know the people of Bundanoon.
They were at the meeting because they thought they could do something to try to stop Norlex. Nothing more, nothing less. Forget talk of carbon footprints. This was about saving Bundanoon.

But by putting out the sanitised, non-controversial press statement which they obviously gave to the Telegraph reporter allowed the Editor of the Daily Tele to state: "Quite why water is being singled out is unclear."

It is not unclear to the people of Bundanoon. So one would have to rate the Press Statement issued after the meeting as an abject failure - if it did not make the real reasons for the public vote clear.

If the discussion on the night had been about the real issues facing Bundanoon, including the threat to their aquifer, and hence their local springs, creeks and waterfalls, then that facile question could not have been used to undermine the valiant effort of the people of Bundanoon.
As it is the Daily Tele laughed the people of Bundanoon out of court, killed the story and moved the debate to other more trivial "news".

The irony is that now the people of Bundanoon may end up being the only town in Australia with both a ban on bottled water sales in the village, AND a bottled water processing facility on Anzac Parade, right in the heart of the village.

That will be a Pyrrhic victory if ever there is one.

Jon Dee took great delight in showing this slide, pointing out that this word is "Evian" spelled backwards. But the joke backfired.
To me it seems more appropriate as a caption for the people of Bundanoon, whose best intentions were hijacked - on the night.
"By whom?" - you might ask.
In my opinion, there was only one winner on the night - Dr Jon Dee.


Greg Chapman said...

Hi Denis,

I am so upset at Bundy On Tap (anti-bottled water group).

It hurts us, as a bottled water business emotionally. We have a local independent small bottled water business here called Southern Highland Springs.

They say that bottled water excuses that they say why pay money to get water and it's bad for the environment.

Honest to God, our bottles ARE recyclable, for heavens sake. I know they are against Norlex and Coca Cola, but against ALL bottled water, them Bundy On Top mob upsets me !!

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Greg (and other readers).
For the record - I know Greg personally, as a fellow Volunteer at the local Community Technology Centre.
I have spoken with Greg personally, this morning, to reassure him that the "Bundy On Tap" campaign is not destined to spread to block the likes of his family's small business.
The problem with the likes of Norlex and many other large bore-licensees in the Southern Highlands selling Bulk Water to the huge bottling companies.
In fact the "Bundy on Tap" proposal is likely to be revealed as being little more than a huge publicity stunt, with zero credibility as far as an environmental campaign is concerned.
The good citizens of Bundanoon have been either sold out, or hoodwinked.

ralph said...

Hello Denis,
I am amazed that you would post your baseless conspiracy theory without first checking the facts.
You know me and other DBB committee members well enough.

I think we may have rather more knowledge of what happens in Bundanoon than you. You have my contact details from the SWA.

I'm tied up with Winterfest activities (something else which regularly fills the Hall) for the next few days, but will reply in detail when I get a chance.

Ralph Clark, President Bundanoon Community Association and Don't Bore Bundanoon member.

Denis Wilson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Denis Wilson said...

Hi Ralph
Thanks for the comment.
My report was very sympathetic to the fine work done by the Don't Bore Bundanoon Committee. Full of praise for it, in fact.
Trouble was your fine efforts have been subverted. And the Bottled Water industry has already driven a great big truck right through the loophole in the resolution which was opened up by the Bundy on Tap Committee.
If you have not already done so, kindly read my follow up report.
Nothing I have written is "theory" - it is all factually based.
Incidentally, there is a serious question to be answered by the Bundy on Tap Committee and its celebrity guest. We were told that the Manly Bubblers were very well received. They were presented to the meeting as a "case study".
Why then was it not disclosed to the meeting that the Manly Bubblers have recently been closed down?
That is fact - verified - and verifiable by you, if you wish.
The Manly Council closed them down because of concerns over a health risk, arising from the Swine Flu outbreak.
Why was that fact not disclosed to the meeting?
I repeat my comments earlier, I am full of praise over the work done by the Don't Bore Bundanoon Committee.
Unfortunately, your fine work has been subverted.
Denis Wilson

Jon Dee said...

Hello there.

It would have been good if you had contacted me prior to writing your blog as I could have corrected a number of errors that are within it. Your piece does not properly represent what we are all trying to do with the campaign.

Maybe you could call me so that we could discuss this? The local team in Bundanoon have my details.

Jon Dee

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Jon
I have spoken this afternoon with one of the Committee members. I will be happy to speak with you too.
Perhaps you might explain why the Bundanoon Committee and the people were not advised that the Bubblers in Manly were taken off line some 6 weeks ago and are still not back in service?
Did you forget that?
Denis Wilson