Water NSW Amendment (Warragamba Dam) 2018

I contribute to debate on the Water NSW Amendment (Warragamba Dam) Bill 2018. I want any interjections by Government members of Parliament, who sit opposite carping and moaning during Opposition speeches, to occur early. This is a bad bill introduced by a crooked Government on behalf of vested interests and Liberal Party donors in the property development industry. Nothing more, nothing less. This is the same criminal Government that was responsible for water theft along the Murray River. The impacts of the proposal to raise the dam wall are very well established. We will see hundreds of square kilometres of pristine world heritage area national park flooded in my electorate. We will see sacred Aboriginal sites inundated and destroyed.

We will see huge cost imposts placed on taxpayers. And we will see rampant property development take hold on areas that were until now deemed too dangerous to build upon. But, do not take my word for it. Do not take the word of the Blue Mountains member who self-identifies as an environmentalist and conservationist. Let us go to the testimony of that Western Sydney traitor, the Minister for toll roads and the member for Penrith, Stuart Ayres. On9 News he was pictured standing in an empty field in front of a flood level marker that maxed out at four metres high and he cast his arm out wide and said:

As far as the eye can see, to that tree line, all the way around, that's the urban development land.

"As far as the eye can see." Well, Stuart, you are blind and cannot see past the self-interest of your political donors, and your party's greed and ideological obsession with destroying the environment for profit. This is a dumb idea and you demean yourself and the positions you hold in this Parliament and this Government by running this agenda on behalf of the developer lobby instead of demanding sane public policy and better outcomes for the people you represent. We know that the development agenda of this Government is driving this legislative change. A January 2017 Infrastructure NSW report commissioned by the Government states:

The Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley is changing from a semi-rural landscape to an urbanised flood plain. Up to 134,000 people live and work on the flood plain and could require evacuation. This number is forecast to double over the next 30 years.

There you have it. That is what this is all about. This bill is brought before the House to allow the Government to ride roughshod over environmental protections that exist within the National Parks and Wildlife Act to prevent the flooding and destruction of wild rivers in the Blue Mountains National Park. By doing so, the Government will effectively levy $270 per Sydney household to raise the dam wall, and increase the size and scale of development in the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley. This is reckless in the extreme. The proposed planning controls would therefore allow for large scale development on land that is near the one-in-100-year flood level. By comparison, the United States generally prohibits development on land within a one-in-500-year flood level, while the Netherlands limit is on land with a one-in-1,250-year flood level. This puts the Government at the extreme end of flood risk worldwide.

For that reason I am unswayed by the emotive nonsense spouted by the failed member for Hawkesbury. He has regularly sought to criticise me, my Labor colleagues and Federal Labor member Susan Templeman for our opposition to their dam wall proposal. He claims that opponents to the dam wall raising proposal will have blood on their hands. But it is he and his crooked Government that is egging on property developers to build bad housing on high risk flood plain areas. He is not just disingenuous, he is outright hypocritical and he is telling lies. He is being disingenuous because Water NSW, the Minister for Regional Water, Niall Blair, ANU Associate Professor Jamie Pittock and many others acknowledge that raising the dam wall will not eliminate the risk of flooding in the region because more than 45 per cent of flooding in the Hawkesbury‑Nepean Valley occurs on river systems that do not feed into the Warragamba Dam reservoir.

We saw evidence of this fact this week. On 14 October7 News carried vision on its Facebook page and reported road closures in Richmond due to flooding from torrential rain. Meanwhile, dam levels at Warragamba have reportedly fallen to 62 per cent. That is not far off the point where water restrictions kick in. I do not buy the line that raising the dam wall will mitigate flood risk in real terms for people living in the Hawkesbury region right now. All that it will do is justify a huge amount of new property development on land that should be left well enough alone. There are alternatives to dam wall raising, which this Government has refused to consider implementing. In the first place, Government could reduce the maximum allowable limit in Warragamba to provide overflow capacity during times of sustained rainfall and inflows to the Warragamba catchment area. This would require the supplementation of that lost water with the mothballed desalination plant that this Government has allowed to fall into disrepair.

That would mirror a similar solution pursued in Brisbane at the Wivenhoe Dam following the floods in 2010. This Government has taken no interest in alternatives. It has pressed ahead with this issue and uses the fig leaf of flood risk as a justification to let property developers rip. The environmental impact statement is yet to be released. The administration approval process has a long way to run. I acknowledge the environmental record of Labor on this issue, both in government and in opposition. In 1995, under the Bob Carr Labor Government, a similar proposal was rejected to protect the World Heritage status of the Blue Mountains National Park.

Both Bob Carr and Bob Debus, the then Minister for the Environment and Minister for Emergency Services and member for Blue Mountains, are steadfastly opposed to this proposal. I would take their expertise and their environmental record any day over the breathlessly eager lobbyists for the property development industry sitting opposite. I also acknowledge my colleagues Chris Minns, Labor's shadow Minister for Water, and the Hon. Penny Sharpe in the other place, Labor's shadow Minister for the Environment and Heritage. They have been staunch supporters of the environment in this place and have refused to be swayed by the lies and misrepresentations of Government Ministers who seek to fatten the wallets of their political donors.

I also acknowledge that the member for Londonderry, Prue Car; Labor's candidate for Penrith, Karen McKeown; and Labor's candidate for Hawkesbury, Pete Reynolds—all of whom represent communities in Penrith and the Hawkesbury area that would be impacted by the rampant development agenda of the Liberals—are all against this proposal. I thank and acknowledge the incredible and solid research work, campaigning and awareness‑raising undertaken by Harry Burkitt, Keith Muir and the Colong Foundation for Wilderness team.

I thank our Indigenous peoples, especially Aunty Sharyn Halls, Kazan Brown and Taylor Clarke for demonstrating strength against adversity in seeking to have their voices and cultural heritage heard in this debate. The Gundungurra people are fighting for Indigenous heritage protections for what is left of the Burragorang Valley so they can continue to tell and share their stories for generations to come. The Katoomba-based Gundungurra Aboriginal Heritage Association has lodged an application to have the valley declared a New South Wales Aboriginal Place in a bid to save hundreds of Indigenous sacred sites at risk of being flooded if the Warragamba Dam wall is raised.

Also worthy of commendation for its work over many years is our Blue Mountains Conservation Society [Con Soc]. Con Soc members are more than deserving of mention and thanks as staunch conservationists and true protectors of our environment. I am a proud member and greatly value their advice, guidance and academic research within and for our community. I value the friendships that have been forged over many years of working, talking and walking together. I share their concerns and have committed to working in this place in the name of conservation. I appreciate beyond words the incredible World Heritage‑listed area we live in, our Blue Mountains National Park. We are entrusted with a unique environment and heritage. If this proposal proceeds, it would be an international environmental disgrace for Australia. Thousands of hectares of declared World Heritage area would be submerged, buried in mud and destroyed forever. Let us protect our wild rivers. I do not support this bill.

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  • Simone Novello
    commented 2018-10-31 23:01:00 +1100
    Trish, thank you and thank you to all those you mention and all the people who will stand up against this environmental disgrace. Tell me what you need and I will do everything I can to support you and all those opposed in this fight.