School bus almost swept away at ‘neglected’ flood hotspot


THE stranding of a school bus on a flooded causeway has raised fears of a tragedy and sparked accusations that a local council is failing to act.

Tweed Valley water extractor Matthew Karlos said the road outside his property was 'a tragedy waiting to happen' because Tweed Shire Council was failing to maintain it to proper standard.

He said a school bus with about a dozen students on board was almost swept off a flooded causeway near his Urliup Road property this week and had to be towed out by his brother.

"The driver was white with fear," Mr Karlos said.

"That road is a tragedy waiting to happen."

Matthew Karlos has hit out at Tweed Shire Council for failing to maintain the road outside his family's property. Picture: Scott Powick
Matthew Karlos has hit out at Tweed Shire Council for failing to maintain the road outside his family's property. Picture: Scott Powick

An inquest into the deaths of Tweed mum Stephanie King and two of her children after their car plunged off a flooded road at Tumbulgum in 2017 recommended the council identify road hazards before and after floods.

"You would think this council would have learnt the importance of looking after flooded roads after that tragedy," Mr Karlos said.

The Karlos family has been at war with the Greens-dominated council over its opposition to their long-running water extraction business.

Mr Karlos said the council opposed water extraction on the basis that Urliup Rd could not cope with water trucks, but was keeping it in 'unsafe disrepair'.

He said the council had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting his family in court but had failed to upgrade the road, which was used by council heavy vehicles including 21m trucks.

Last year, the Karlos family lost a NSW Land and Environment Court appeal against the council's refusal to allow them to expand their water extraction business.

"The council fought against us in court and spent hundreds of thousands to say that their own poorly maintained road was not fit for the purpose of our properly licensed and correctly zoned family business," he said.

"There is grossly broken, biased and discriminating legislation in place that the council is weaponizing in court against families like us."

A report by the NSW Chief Scientist late last year found water licence holders in the Tweed were extracting just .008 per cent of available water from local aquifers.

The report found there was no evidence that current bottled water extractions impacted on other properties' bores, surface water or groundwater-dependent ecosystems in the area.

The council recently deferred a vote to ban future water mining in the Tweed after the Chief Scientist's office expressed concerns about the decision-making process.