Bundanoon is a quiet town, nestled in the soft green southern highlands about 150kms from Sydney. My brother, my Nan and I used to do day trips there when we were little. We’d trundle around the main street into local bakeries and nurseries, while Nan did her shopping and my brother and I dribbled jam and cream all over our wooly jumpers. It’s hardly the first place you would think of as a tinder box for anti-corporate revolt, unless your particular revolution involved lethal amounts of scones. But life, as they say, is stranger than fiction. This sleepy town has not only become the first in the world to ban bottled water; in a deeply ironic tragedy, as of yesterday it’s also about to become the site of a spring water bore by Norlex Holdings.
Curiously, the victory would not have happened without the campaign that led to defeat. Bundanoon’s opposition to bottled water arose from their opposition to the Bore, a campaign of 15 years or so against Norlex. As the ‘Bundy On Tap’ campaign history states, ‘The environmental, social, heritage and financial impacts of this proposed development has brought the myriad issues of bottled water into clearer focus for many townsfolk, not the least being the removal of water from aquifers for commercial gain, during one of Australia’s longest droughts’. Through a long process of community meetings, communication with council and local business, the campaign culminated in a vote last year that finally banned bottled water and resulted in the installation of filtered bubblers.
The town has since been the subject of much attention. They’ve received a bounty of praise from environmentalists and enquiries from other towns who wish to emulate them. They’ve also been subject to an aggressive PR campaign attacking the decision from the US commercial lobby group, the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA). Here’s a link to the youtube video spread by ‘bottled water matters’, a group created by IBWA to lobby for their product. Ironically, the youtube clip attacks the town for putting a PR spin on their campaign. With global sales levelling out and alot of bad press, they are likely on the defensive. And so they should be; little Bundanoon is the first town to ban bottled water, but it won’t be the last.