Friday, June 21, 2024

Wollondilly Mayor says dam wall plan robs community of voice

Wollondilly Mayor, Matt Gould says the NSW Government’s declaration of plans to raise the Warragamba Dam wall as a critical state significant infrastructure project removes the ability for planning approval decisions to be scrutinised by the community.

Mayor Gould said that the announcement by Premier Perrottet, which gives final approval to raise the dam wall to the NSW Planning Minister, meant the project’s planning approval decisions could not be scrutinised by the community in court under NSW Planning and Environmental law.

“Rather conveniently, this announcement comes two weeks after findings by the NSW Government’s legal auditors were publicly released, finding the dam project’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) had been improperly prepared by Water NSW and SMEC Engineering, with serious claims regarding conflicts of interests identified by the auditors,” the Mayor said.

“Everyone who has objectively looked at the issue can see how highly flawed the EIS process for the dam wall raising has been. There has been criticism from groups as diverse as the Upper House Committee on the Dam Raising, environmental, indigenous and flooding experts, and even a former Deputy Commissioner of the SES.

“Instead of worrying about how to best shield itself from valid scrutiny of its flawed EIS process, the state government should focus on more immediate ways to manage the flood risk on the Hawkesbury-Nepean and drop the water level in Warragamba Dam before any predicted heavy rainfall events.”

The Mayor says dropping the water level and offsetting it with greater use of the desalination plant was an option that had not been properly considered and one which had been advocated for by a variety of experts.

“This would allow the government to redirect the billions of dollars that would be spent on raising the dam wall into flood evacuation routes and road infrastructure which is desperately needed for at-risk communities across Greater Western Sydney, and which would also improve transport links on a day to day basis,” said Mayor Gould.

“The government’s own modelling shows that raising Warragamba Dam cannot, and will not, remove the risk of catastrophic flooding of the Hawkesbury-Nepean, with over 50% of flood waters coming from the Upper Nepean and sources other than Warragamba Dam.

“This is one of the wettest years ever recorded, and I’m disappointed that the Premier is politicising the threat of flooding as a tool to push for an outcome that will enable further development on the flood plains of Western Sydney.”

Ecologists involved in the plan to raise the dam wall say their input detailing the threat to endangered species in the region was either watered down or ignored, a NSW upper house inquiry into the plans heard in November last year.

At the time, a former primary assessor for biodiversity surveys and analysis for the EIS, resigned from her role citing concern her accreditation as an ecologist could be at risk if she had signed off on the draft report as proposed.

The Wollondilly Mayor’s comments follow Blue Mountains Mayor, Mark Greenhill’s criticism of the Premier’s announcement yesterday.

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