Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Warragamba Dam declaration nothing but a ‘con job’ says Blue Mountains Mayor

Blue Mountains Mayor, Mark Greenhill, has slammed the NSW Government’s decision to declare the Warragamba Dam wall raising project as state significant a “con job”.

NSW Premier, Dominic Perrottet yesterday announced that a proposal to raise the wall by 14 metres had been declared Critical State Significant Infrastructure (CSSI), as it is “deemed essential to NSW for economic and social reasons”.

“First and foremost my number one priority as Premier is protecting NSW communities and we know from the independent flood inquiry that the best way to protect communities downstream is to raise the wall,” Mr Perrottet said.

“This declaration reinforces that raising the dam wall is the most effective long-term flood mitigation strategy to help protect residents across the Hawkesbury-Nepean.”

Mayor Greenhill said the announcement, coming the day after World Animal Day, was both ironic and sad.

“Make no mistake, a decision to raise the dam wall is a decision to flood part of the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, to devastate Aboriginal cultural heritage, and to bring endangered species to the brink of destruction,” the Mayor said.

“The Regent Honeyeater exists in very few places outside the area of the Blue Mountains that will be flooded by this proposal. This is a decision that brings the very existence of this species to the edge of total extinction.”

He said raising the wall would also place world heritage of the Blue Mountains at risk.

Blue Mountains Mayor, Mark Greenhill (file image).

“That will risk our local economy and jobs because many overseas tourists come to our area based on our World Heritage status.”

He argues the wall raising would do nothing to protect residents from flooding.

“In fact, raising the dam wall will have minimal effect when it does occur because much of the flooding happens down stream of Warragamba. This is nothing more than a political move that has very little real effect and simply seeks to cover up the years of neglect,” said Mayor Greenhill.

“Proper flood escape routes, grading of roads, a buy-back scheme for homes in the flood plain and no further development in flood prone areas is critical. These are real solutions that a sensible government would employ.”

Minister for Lands and Water, Kevin Anderson maintains fewer homes would be impacted by flooding if the dam wall was raised, rather than lowered in line with Labor’s proposal.

“In a flood similar to the worst on record in the valley, the number of homes impacted would drop threefold from 15,500 to 5,000, while 14,000 people would need to be evacuated rather than 90,000. The cost of damages would also be reduced by up to $8 billion,” Mr Anderson said.

“Labor’s plan to lower Warragamba’s water supply level by 12 metres would have severe consequences such as putting Sydney into severe water restrictions and increasing people’s water bills.”

Minister for Planning and Minister for Homes, Anthony Roberts said the CSSI declaration would not impact the rigorous assessment and stakeholder scrutiny the proposal would need to go through.

“The proposal has already been subject to an 82-day public exhibition, which gave stakeholders a chance to provide their feedback,” Mr Roberts said.

“The recent flood inquiry confirmed that raising the Warragamba Dam wall is the most effective flood mitigation option available to us.

“This proposal doesn’t hurt us during drought, but will protect us during floods, balancing the natural extremes that are becoming more frequent.”

WaterNSW will now respond to the feedback and issues raised in submissions and its Preferred Infrastructure Report, before a comprehensive assessment is undertaken in accordance with the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act.

“Raising Warragamba Dam wall as some sort of panacea is nothing but a con job. Even the Insurance Council of Australia has condemned this plan,” said Mayor Greenhill.

“At the end of the day this is much more about over developing the flood plain than it is about flood mitigation.”

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