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November 01, 2023

Success! Warragamba Dam plan officially scrapped

Good news - the development plan to raise the Warragamba Dam wall has been officially withdrawn! For the first time in five years we can have a sense of certainty that the spectacular valleys of the southern Blue Mountains National Park will not be flooded. Our Chair, Bob Debus, discusses this significant win and reflects on the 5 year journey below.

A message from the Chair

When I first joined the Board of The Colong Foundation for Wilderness, now Wilderness Australia, there was one great task at the forefront of my mind. That task was to end the threat of the raising of the Warragamba Dam.

It has taken a great effort by many people - to which you have been central. Many conservation groups, traditional owners, scientists, technical experts, local councils and local residents had banded together over half a decade to ensure the dam was never built. And together we succeeded.

When the Labor Government was elected on the 25th of March, with an unambiguous policy of stopping the raising of the Warragamba dam, I was elated, like all of us. But I also knew that a lot of bureaucratic work behind the scenes would be required to turn this enlightened policy into reality.

And so in April, shortly after the election, Wilderness Australia wrote to the Minister for Water and the Minister for the Environment, asking that the EIS be formally withdrawn and that a series of actions be taken to close off the project for good.

In August the Hon. Rose Jackson, Minister for Water and the responsible Minister for the Warragamba project, wrote back with a positive message:

“As you have noted, the NSW Government will not be proceeding with the former Government's proposal to raise Warragamba Dam wall for flood mitigation purposes, and WaterNSW has been directed to cease all work on the project.”

“There are, however, some administrative activities associated with the project that are yet to be formally closed out, including the withdrawal of the Environmental Impact Statement, and this is anticipated to occur in the coming weeks.”

This was a reassuring response from the Minister, but I also knew from my own experience that having an external environment organisation laser-focused on these issues would help keep the bureaucratic processes from stalling. So we have continued our lobbying efforts behind the scenes to assist in implementing the Government’s excellent policy.

I can now inform you that the Development Application for raising the Warragamba dam has been officially withdrawn and a notification to this effect has been posted on the Department of Planning and Environment Portal.

This truly is the end of this series of battles over the raising of the Warragamba dam wall.

There is still more work to do to try and future-proof this outcome — the dam builders will certainly be back if an opportunity arises, but we will put some more roadblocks in their way.

I would like to thank our supporters for the extraordinary efforts that they and many in the community have put into protecting the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.

To everyone who attended a meeting, wrote a letter, signed a petition, made a submission or helped to fund our work, I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you. It made a difference.

It is fair to say that without the efforts of the Colong Foundation/Wilderness Australia over the last five years, the outcome would probably have been very different.

The successful campaign is a timely reminder that when we work together and stay focussed, we can be successful in our endeavours to stand up for the environment, regardless of the odds.

And so we can begin a new journey with a skip and a jump, focusing our attention on other crucial environmental campaigns.

Yours for wilderness,

Bob Debus
Wilderness Australia Chair

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Australian Foundation for Wilderness Limited
ACN 001 112 143
ABN 84 001 112 143
Advocating as 'Wilderness Australia'
Formerly The Colong Foundation for Wilderness Ltd
Registered Office 8/154 Elizabeth Street Sydney NSW 2000
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