Three NSW Coalition members are among a cross-parliamentary committee calling on the state to look at alternatives to raising the Warragamba Dam wall.
A unanimous report featuring the input of Liberal MLCs Shayne Mallard and Taylor Martin, as well as Nationals member Wes Fang, has recommended heightened scrutiny of the environmental impacts of the $1 billion-plus project and seek the consent of local Aboriginal people before raising the wall by at least 14 metres.
The recommendations form part of an interim report resulting from a parliamentary inquiry into the government bid to reduce flooding risks to residents of the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley, which critics say will endanger protected World Heritage bushland upstream and inundate hundreds of Aboriginal cultural sites.
Independent MLC Justin Field, who is chairing the inquiry, said the evidence heard by the committee cast significant doubt over whether raising the dam wall could minimise both downstream flood risks and upstream impacts.
“It is unequivocal that the project will have significant, if not devastating, impacts on upstream biodiversity, including on critically endangered species like the Regent Honeyeater and pristine wild rivers like the Kowmung,” Mr Field wrote in the report, adding the committee recommended more fieldwork be done to account for the impact of the 2019-20 bushfires.
“It is encouraging that this report has unanimous support from both government and non-government members,” Mr Field wrote. Labor’s Adam Searle and Penny Sharpe, and One Nation’s Rod Roberts, are also on the committee.
The committee has recommended lowering the full supply level of the existing dam, improved evacuation routes for Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley residents, and the consideration of buying back flood-prone land among alternatives to raising the wall.
The inquiry also heard evidence about the impact the project will have on Aboriginal heritage, including on sites that are part of the creation story of the Gundungurra People, with traditional owners airing frustration about the adequacy of the assessment of significant sites.