Despite blistering criticism from NSW Government agencies on Tuesday regarding the severe inadequacies of the Warragamba Dam raising EIS, Minister for Western Sydney, Stuart Ayres, has today confirmed on 2GB radio that construction will proceed on the raising of Warragamba Dam wall regardless.
Stuart Ayres said on the Ben Fordham radio program (2GB) this morning:
"Absolutely it will happen. It's imperative that Western Sydney gets flood mitigation protection by raising the Warragamba dam wall."
"There's no way the public should pay a biodiversity offset for a temporary impact, where the environment we know is going to recover.
"The best example I can give your listeners here is that if we chose to do that then we'd be asking Rob Rogers, the head of the RFS, to do biodiversity offsets every time he did hazard reduction whenever we had a bushfire impact in the Blue Mountains.
"We spent the last three years doing the most extensive environmental impact assessment, we've done detailed construction concepts.
"I've got legal obligations under the law in NSW and also at the Commonwealth level to provide that information to the public. We've done that through an incredibly extensive environmental impact statement, it's got over 8,000 pages with maps and tables and everything in it that every single person needs.
"We know from the public response to that EIS that about 80% of the responses are relating to biodiversity, they're not relating to flood impacts downstream. We also know that almost 50% of those responses include references to impacts on Indigenous and Aboriginal sites of significance behind the dam wall."
Minister Ayres' comments are in stark contrast to the 140 pages of blistering attacks by the Department of Planning and Heritage NSW on Tuesday (available here), which included claims that the project cost has been underestimated by 60%. The agency advice stated:
“The EIS’s conclusions of minimal impact on threatened species is not supported by the data or evidence…”
“the EIS makes incorrect assumptions about how to determine World Heritage values”
“The EIS has not addressed the requests of the World Heritage Committee.”
"The project would result in approximately 284 kilometres of upstream waterways potentially being inundated up to the probable maximum flood level. Minimal assessment has been undertaken of the aquatic ecology in these inundation areas, despite them containing known locations of threatened species."
“Only 15 small water samples (from 5 sites) were sent for eDNA8 analysis out of the approximately 1100 plus streams that will be impacted by the ‘new’ inundation zone at some level/duration.”
"[We] do not consider the impacts of the project on the natural and cultural values of the national parks estate and Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area have been adequately assessed or justified."
"HNSW considers that the current proposal will have a significant impact on Aboriginal cultural heritage values, including the values of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.
"HNSW considers that the overall quality of the archaeological technical report (ATR) has compromised the ability of the Aboriginal cultural heritage assessment report (ACHAR), and subsequently the EIS, to adequately consider and assess the impacts to Aboriginal cultural heritage."