• Tony Bosworth

Stormy waters - Hawkesbury councillor blasts MP over Warragamba Dam wall comments

Australia’s biggest insurance company, IAG, has ended its backing for the $1 billion-plus project to raise Warragamba Dam’s wall, citing the “probable loss” of important Indigenous cultural sites.

Macquarie MP Susan Templeman said on Saturday she welcomed IAG’s withdrawal from the mooted project.

­“The raising of the dam wall has been presented by the NSW Government and particularly the Minister for Western Sydney, Stuart Ayres, as a quick fix for flooding in the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley, but appears to be more about pleasing developers than to genuinely protect existing residents,” Ms Templeman said.

“I welcome this IAG announcement as a sign that the plan is now receiving proper scrutiny by people who had previously advocated for it.”

But Hawkesbury Liberal councillor and recently re-elected Chairman of the Hawkesbury River County Council, Nathan Zamprogno, has hit back, saying Ms Templeman had “effectively abandoned the Hawkesbury community to the risk of floods.”

“Ms Templeman should be defending the Hawkesbury, whose families bear the greatest risk of loss to life and property caused by floods in the nation. Instead, she is captive to environmentalists whose criticism for flood mitigation comes from places of personal safety – high and dry and out of harm’s way. It is clear that Ms Templeman is playing to her political base in the Blue Mountains and has effectively abandoned the Hawkesbury community to the risk of floods.”

A firm believer in raising the dam wall, Cllr Zamprogno said: “Ms Templeman has repeated the claim that raising Warragamba Dam wall is for the ‘Liberal’s developer mates’, but far from there being a shred of evidence for this claim, it has been refuted over and over,” says Councillor Zamprogno.

“Public officials testified under oath before the NSW Upper House inquiry into the dam raising and specifically refuted these claims. Simon Draper, CEO of Infrastructure NSW declared there would be no changes to flood height building limits. Andrew George, the CEO of WaterNSW declared the raised dam would not be used to store more water for Sydney’s drinking needs,” Cllr Zamprogno said.

Ms Templeman said it was debateable whether raising the dam wall would help with potential flooding incidents in the Hawkesbury.

From the start I have questioned why the NSW Government has refused to acknowledge that not only are there serious questions about whether the wall raising provides any real protections from flooding - given several other rivers have a role in the flooding the Hawkesbury region - but that it does significant damage to Indigenous and natural heritage in the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.”

But Cllr Zamprogno said the NSW Government supported the conclusions of the Upper House Inquiry which he said recommended comprehensive assessment and consultation processes in relation to environment and Aboriginal heritage.

“The preliminary report shows that only 0.05% of the World Heritage Area would be affected, and only temporarily, if the dam was raised and a large rain event filled it,” said Cllr Zamprogno.

“How much Aboriginal heritage or environmental damage would be lost downstream of the dam if a flood like 1867 came again? No one talks about that.”

“The missing voice from this debate are the 134,000 people who live and trade on the Hawkesbury Nepean floodplain – they are the people whose lives, livelihoods, and properties are at risk,” said Councillor Zamprogno.

“I suspect that the morally righteous who wag their fingers and who oppose this project aren’t in any personal danger like floodplain residents are. Those opponents have no personal stake in the outcome – but we do.”

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