The Sydney Morning Herald has today revealed leaked documents that show Minister for Western Sydney, Stuart Ayres, and his bureaucrats are attempting to duck environmental regulations requiring offsetting for the damage that raising Warragamba Dam wall would cause to the world heritage forests of the southern Blue Mountains.
The draft environmental impact study (EIS) compiled by WaterNSW proposes the effects of potentially inundating more than 5000 hectares of the Blue Mountains World Heritage area be treated "as an indirect impact" which mean Water NSW would not be required to offset the damage to the world heritage property and countless Aboriginal cultural sites.
This approach, though, was recently rebuffed by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, which said in a separate leaked document supplied to the Herald, "the rationale and conclusion for considering all upstream impacts from temporary inundation as indirect impacts is not supported."
The department was also dismissive of WaterNSW's suggested strategy of monitoring effects of flooding and providing compensation if impacts are identified. "Given the lack of surveys so far, impacts will generally not be able to be detected".
Harry Burkitt, Colong Foundation Campaign Manager, said:
"Stuart Ayres is a rogue minister with a bunch of rogue bureaucrats who are attempting to disregard government regulation so they can destroy hundreds of Aboriginal cultural sites and over 1,000 hectares of UNESCO listed Koala habitat.
"WaterNSW knows if they pay what the law requires of them for environmental offsetting – which is over $1 billion – it would blow the dam project's business case out of the water.
"The NSW Cabinet needs to bring Minister Ayres and his rogue bureaucrats under control and force them to follow proper government processes.
“What they are doing is in direct contravention to the Federal Government's obligations under the World Heritage Convention and is a clear example of why the Federal Parliament should not be allowing the delegation of environmental decisions to the state governments.