17 October 2018
(Bills - Second Reading Debate, Legislative Assembly, Parliament House)
I oppose the Water NSW Amendment (Warragamba Dam) Bill 2018. The bill will override existing prohibitions on flooding the Blue Mountains National Park and the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area to facilitate the Warragamba Dam project. The Blue Mountains is a stunning expanse of mountainous ranges and native bush that supports rare flora and fauna right on Sydney's doorstep. The Blue Mountains includes some of the most environmentally protected areas in the country with State, Federal and international significance, including areas of outstanding universal value. It is a region much loved and cherished by people across Sydney, including in my electorate, across the country and across the world.
Raising the Warragamba Dam wall by 14 metres will have environmentally disastrous consequences on this important region. Muddy dam water will inundate 4,700 hectares of national park and 65 kilometres of wilderness streams, drowning 50 different types of threatened plant and animal species. The largest wild population of the nationally threatened Camden White Gum will be wiped out and the tree will be upgraded to critically endangered status. A breeding site for the critically endangered regent honeyeater will be destroyed and the bird will wind up on the brink of extinction. The last wild population of emus in Sydney is at risk. Important rare and unique Aboriginal cultural heritage sites of the Gundungurra people will be destroyed after much was lost when the dam was first built in 1960. I understand Gundungurra people do not feel they have been meaningfully consulted with about this project.
The environmental devastation is unnecessary as there are other ways to improve flood mitigation in the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley. Raising dam walls is not world's best practice for reducing flood risks. Water experts have presented the Government with a number of more reliable alternatives to reduce flood risks, including flood levees, diversion structures and lowering the dam's storage level to provide space for floods, but these alternatives have been dismissed. Only half of past major floods have originated from areas above the dam and, of these, they can still be of an intensity that would not be prevented by 14 metres of additional wall height. The only guaranteed way to protect life from flooding in the region is to increase investment in evacuation infrastructure.
The Government has said that we should support this bill because it does not legislate the raising of the dam but merely removes the obstacles that require a lease, licence, easement or right of way for the flooding of the Blue Mountains National Park that will occur only if the project gets planning approval. But the bill removes important environmental protections to facilitate this project within a process that the community has little faith in. Because Water NSW is a government agency, no matter how many objections are made to the environmental impact statement to raise the dam wall, the Independent Planning Commission cannot oversee assessment and determination or hold a public hearing, leaving the application subject to less scrutiny than other development proposals.
Disappointingly, the Federal Government has absolved itself of its environmental assessment responsibilities on World Heritage and national heritage areas, listed migratory bird species and threatened species and communities, delegating them to Water NSW—the proponent, further reducing oversight. More than 1,000 plant and animal species in this State are at risk of extinction, 59 per cent of our animals are listed as threatened and we have lost more than a third of our native vegetation. Little is being done to reverse this disastrous process. Indeed, over the past eight years I have opposed many laws and policies that will see more biodiversity lost, including laws to facilitate land clearing and logging and laws introducing horse riding and grazing in national parks. The creation of new national parks has stalled. Now the raising of the Warragamba Dam wall will destroy some of the most protected areas in the State. I understand the reason for this expensive and environmentally destructive project is to open new land for housing development on the Hawkesbury-Nepean flood plain and this is a disgrace.
I cannot support the bill.