A cross party New South Wales The parliamentary committee has recommended that the state government consider alternatives to its controversial plan to raise the Warragamba dam wall.
The research is interim report, released Tuesday, calls on the government to “more fully consider” alternatives to the project, including purchasing properties on the lower floodplain and lowering the full supply level of the current dam.
The commission found that the wall should not be erected “if the proposal cannot preserve or enhance the current and future integrity of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Site”.
The upper house committee is chaired by the independent Justin Field, but Tuesday’s report had the support of the six other members of the investigation, including three government MLCs.
The committee has examined the plan to raise the Warragamba dam wall by up to 17 meters and will hold further hearings next month to discuss the project’s environmental impact assessment (MES). published last week.
WaterNSW has proposed raising the sheet pile to reduce the risk to life and property in the floodplain of the Hawkesbury-Nepean River Basin in the event of a major flood.
But the plan – which involves temporarily keeping the floodwater in the Blue Mountains World Heritage Site and then releasing it in a controlled manner – has met strong opposition due to its impact on endangered species, cultural heritage sites and the exceptional value of the world heritage area.
Among the recommendations, the parliamentary committee said WaterNSW should conduct further field studies and expand the assessment of Aboriginal cultural heritage after concerns were allayed. raised by traditional owners of Gundungurra on the suitability of the work performed.
The report recommends that the government address concerns from federal and state environmental agencies by conducting fieldwork on the ground to assess the impact of the 2019-20 wildfires in areas that would also be damaged as a result of the project.
It calls for greater transparency from the NSW government in developing the EIS and says final documents should be submitted to the World Heritage Center so that any feedback from the World Heritage Committee can be made public before a decision on the project is made.
It recommends the government work with councils in the Hawkesbury-Nepean region to “urgently develop a comprehensive flood evacuation plan for the Penrith Valley and other flood-affected parts of western Sydney”.
The report’s publication came as the minister overseeing the project, Stuart Ayres, was named NSW’s new deputy Liberal leader.
“It’s interesting that the commission’s government members support these recommendations, so really challenge Stuart Ayres,” Field said Tuesday.
He added that the project should not proceed “unless the government can guarantee that the world heritage values will not be affected”.
Shayne Mallard, a Liberal Party MLC and Blue Mountains resident on the committee, said it was important that the latest EIS concerns raised in the report. “My main concern is the impact on the World Heritage area and the damage to cultural heritage,” he said.
Mallard was also concerned about the potential threats to life and property from a major flood and said government decisions on flood mitigation would require “a balancing act.”
“I grew up in the Hawkesbury-Nepean River basin, so I understand the issues people are talking about,” he said. “We have people in the watershed who say they are terrified of a major flood.”
Penny Sharpe, NSW Labor’s environmental spokesperson and a member of the committee, wondered if the project would solve the problem it was trying to solve.
“What [the report] shows that there are great concerns about the project and the government realizes that,” she said. “The committee believes that the EIS should address these issues.”
Comments were sought from Ayres.