According to officials responsible for assessing this project, the Perrottet government will need to modify large parts of its environmental impact statement to support its proposal to raise Warragamba dam’s wall.
New South Wales environmental officials have informed the government that the government’s September analysis has not properly assessed or justified the potential impacts to the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area from the $1.6bn plan. The wall will be raised up to 17 metres.
The department of planning, industry, and environment published responses. Heritage NSW and the department’s environment, energy, and science division (EES), both voiced significant criticisms of this project.
The Environment Divisions ResponseThere were many problems in the assessment, including the incorrect assumptions used to evaluate the project’s impact on world heritage value.
Officials stated that the WaterNSW project assessment also incorrectly excluded Aboriginal heritage as part of the world heritage values for the area. There was also a risk that high cultural sites were not identified.
EES doesn’t consider the impacts of this project on the natural or cultural values of the National Park Estate and Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. This is according to Dean Knudson (deputy secretary of biodiversity conservation and science), in his 88-page response.
Environment officials voiced concern that the data and evidence did not support the conclusion that the project would have little impact on threatened species.
The EIS had also not addressed the World Heritage Committee’s request that the government fully consider all possible impacts on the outstanding universal value of the area, including Aboriginal cultural value, or whether raising the wall would increase bushfire risk and threaten the recovery and recovery of species and habitat.
Environment officials criticized inadequate surveys of threatened species habitat. They wrote that the assessment on aquatic ecology had failed in its attempt to identify that raising the dam wall would cause floods of 284km of streams and rivers during floods.
They claimed that WaterNSW had correctly identified the process of sourcing environmental offsets for the project but had failed to identify the exact location of the proposed offsets or if the offsets requirements could be met.
In a separate ResponseHeritage NSW conducted the assessment and found that the area’s cultural significance was underestimated. It indicated that there would be significant impacts on Aboriginal cultural heritage value.
Sam Kidman, Heritage NSW’s executive Director, stated that the Burragorang Valley’s clear expression of dreams stories and songlines in its archaeological record was unique and could never be duplicated, even if sites were found.
The response stated that the clear concerns of the Aboriginal community were not addressed, and that there has been no concerted effort made to redesign or appropriately mitigate these impacts.
The department published 2,088 public submissions in response to the EIS. It commissioned an analysis1,931 of 2,067 respondents were against the project.
The most common objections were those regarding impacts on biodiversity (reported in 80% of submissions), world heritage area (50% submissions) or cultural heritage sites (47% submissions).
Rob Stokes (the new minister for infrastructure in NSW) has been given joint carriage of this dam project with Stuart Ayres (the minister for western Sydney), as a result of the NSW ministerial reshuffle.
A spokesperson for Stokes said that the government as a whole would still make the final decision.
Harry Burkitt, Colong Foundation for Wilderness, stated that the responses from government agencies showed the absurdity of the entire EIS process, and the complete failure to exercise due diligence.
Since 2004, minister Stuart Ayres has tried to get the NSW government to approve the Warragamba dam-wall raising. He said that their attempts to force the NSW government to support the building of Warragamba dam wall have now been utterly unsuccessful.
Kazan Brown is a Gundungurra woman whose great-great-great-grandfather, John Joseph Riley, owned land at Burnt Flat, which is in the inundation zone.
She stated that Heritage NSW and environment officials had written their support, which reiterated everything we’ve said from the beginning.
The consultation [from WaterNSW]It was not real, it was useless, she said.
They came and told us about their plans, then they went out and did it.
We have always said that cultural surveys and assessments were not done properly.
A letter from the departmentWaterNSW is asked for several changes, including a more comprehensive survey on Aboriginal cultural heritage values and possible impacts to the world’s heritage area.
WaterNSW is also requested to explain the proposed offsets for the damage that the project would cause.
WaterNSW spokesperson said that WaterNSW would now review submissions received during the public exhibit and address any issues raised in a submissions to the Department of Planning and Environment.
Stuart Ayres (minister for western Sydney), was asked for his opinion.