Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke says the current Lachlan Regional Water Strategy is alarmingly bereft of any significant long-term plans for water security within the region, and is calling on the NSW Labor Government to demonstrate some leadership on the issue, and commit to funding vital projects that will help improve the resilience of water resources.
Ms Cooke says this is the third time the strategy has been open for public exhibition, and yet there are still no projects that adequately address the region’s water needs over the coming decades.
“In our region, we have witnessed the impacts of drought and flood firsthand; that’s why we need to identify and invest in water infrastructure projects that will provide long-term water supply, along with safeguards during flooding events,” Ms Cooke said.
“The Lachlan Regional Water Strategy is supposed to set out a 20-to-40-year vision for the area, but alarmingly there are absolutely no major infrastructure projects for as far as the eye can see.
“And that’s where the raising of the Wyangala Dam wall came in. That was the project the former Coalition Government had identified as ticking all the boxes; it was a shovel-ready project, that provided the infrastructure the region needed to guarantee future water supply, while also mitigating against the damage caused by flooding events.
“As we know, the NSW Labor Government scrapped the Wyangala Dam project in September, but failed to come up with any kind of alternative solution.
“They’ve had 12 years to come up with a plan, but it seems that now they have control of the ship, they’ve found themselves up the creek without a paddle! So much so, that the Water Minister came all the way to Orange last week to re-heat the announcement of funding for a project that is pretty much all but finished and paid for.
“This is simply not good enough; what we really need to see is some strong vision and leadership from this government, and for them to get moving on tangible projects right away, that provide practical solutions as soon as possible.
“To that end, I’m calling on the NSW Government to confirm funding for the Belubula Water Security Project. There are two key elements to this project: the first is the raising of the wall at Lake Rowlands by 2.2 metres, which would effectively double its storage capacity. Since 2020 more than 200GL has gone over the wall, and not a single drop has been captured; when we’re facing yet another dry-spell, that is simply not good enough.
“The second aspect that is critical is the pipeline linking Carcoar to Lake Rowlands; these are critical infrastructure projects that will help future-proof this region against droughts, and provide improved flood mitigation during significant rainfall events.
“What the Water Minister fails to understand is that access to reliable and sufficient water is not just an essential requirement for our daily lives, but also for the growth and prosperity of our region.
“We must prioritise and invest in infrastructure that ensures our water supply is sustainable, and resilient, and can withstand the challenges of drought, as well as flooding rain, and I hate to say it after this protracted consultation process, but the Lachlan Regional Water Strategy – not to mention this government – fails on all counts,” she said.
Photo caption: Steph Cooke discussing the Lachlan Regional Water Strategy with Cowra Mayor Ruth Fagan at Wyangala Dam.