New Coast CEO’s controversial family concern
Gold Coast City Council's new $600,000-a-year chief executive has close family links to controversial water mining next to World Heritage-listed Springbrook National Park.
David Edwards, the high-powered son of Bjelke-Petersen-era deputy premier and treasurer Sir Llew Edwards, was last week chosen to replace long-serving Coast council boss Dale Dickson.
The former senior state government bureaucrat, who as State Development Department projects chief was responsible for delivering Brisbane's giant Queen's Wharf development, beat dozens of candidates, including Mr Dickson, for the plum position, which pays more than the prime minister's job.
But his appointment has raised concerns among environmentalists, with revelations that Mr Edwards' wife Sybil jointly owns a company linked to long-term groundwater extraction at Springbrook.
Mrs Edwards, a teacher and house head at exclusive Brisbane Girls Grammar, is listed as a shareholder of Come By Chance (Springbrook) Pty Ltd, which owns a property at 199 Repeater Station Rd in the Gold Coast hinterland hamlet.
The property has had a water extraction licence since the mid-1990s, mining up to about 60,000 litres a day.
It is one of two in the area - supplying water to customers including soft drinks giant Coca-Cola Amatil - that are strongly opposed by green groups.
They argue water mining has been going on for decades "with little regulation, monitoring or investigation as to whether it is having an impact on the surrounding national park ecosystems".
"The water mined is carried by truck down the mountain to bottling plants where it becomes 'spring' water in an endless supply of plastic bottles," the Gold Coast and Hinterland Environment Council (GECKO) says.
Ironically, green groups have joined forces with the Gold Coast City Council to mount a legal challenge against plans for a third water extraction bore on Repeater Station Rd.
The council unanimously rejected the application in 2019, but the property owner has launched a Planning and Environment Court appeal.
Mr Edwards said all of his interests would be declared when he starts in the top job.
The Palaszczuk government last year imposed a 12-month moratorium on new water mines at Springbrook and Mount Tamborine pending an investigation by Queensland University of Technology experts.
"I appreciate that local residents have concerns about the impact of commercial bottling on groundwater resources at Tamborine and Springbrook," the then natural resources minister Anthony Lynham said last March when announcing the moratorium.
GECKO's Lois Levy said water mining "shouldn't be happening" at Springbrook.
"All it does is enable someone to sell free water to the likes of Coca-Cola and we end up with millions of plastic bottles in the environment," she said.
Mr Edwards, an eco-tourism advocate, is expected to take up the Coast chief executive job in coming months once his contract details are finalised.
Originally published as Troubled waters: New Coast CEO's controversial family concern