Western Sydney minister Stuart Ayre's comments on Warragamba Dam proposal slammed

Warragamba Dam. Picture: Simon Bennett
Warragamba Dam. Picture: Simon Bennett

Opponents to the raising of the Warragamba Dam wall have called for the resignation of Stuart Ayres following controversial comments the Western Sydney minister made on radio recently.

During a live radio segment on Ben Fordham's 2GB radio show, Mr Ayres said "absolutely it will happen" when referring to the wall-raising proposal, despite the project still being in the early assessment stages.

One of the project's detractors, Colong Foundation for Wilderness organiser Harry Burkitt, says the proposal is a "waste of taxpayer money" and has called on Mr Ayres to resign.

Mr Burkitt says Mr Ayres comments were an insult to those who had taken the time to read the 8000-page Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) document and craft their response.

"If we lived in a rational world, Mr Ayres would resign or be sacked by the Premier for this complete disaster of a project and millions of dollars spent on an EIS that doesn't even meet the minimum standards required," he said.

"It's time for the NSW cabinet to rein in Mr Ayres and take a look at better, cheaper, more appropriate options for flood mitigation."

Mr Ayres said during the interview that it was "imperative that Western Sydney gets flood mitigation protection by raising Warragamba Dam wall."

"We spent the last three years doing the most extensive environmental impact assessment, we've done detailed construction concepts," he said.

"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 (EIS), it's got over 8000 pages with maps and tables and everything in it that every single person needs."

The state government has proposed raising the dam wall to mitigate the risk of flooding in the Hawkesbury Valley region.

However, indigenous residents, scientists, environmental action groups, local councils, politicians and UNESCO have raised various concerns about the plan.

The submission period for the EIS ended late last year and there were more than 2000 submissions received.

During his interview with Mr Fordham, Mr Ayres said "about 80 per cent of the responses are relating to biodiversity, they're not relating to flood impacts downstream."

"We also know that almost 50 per cent of those responses include references to impacts on Indigenous and Aboriginal sites of significance behind the dam wall," he said.

Mr Ayres refused to clarify his comments to the Advertiser directly.

However, a representative from Mr Ayres' office said the minister believes the plan to raise the dam wall "should go ahead."

"A decision on the proposal will only be made after every 'i' is dotted and every 't' is crossed," the representative said.

Mr Ayres' office failed to provide written responses to the Advertiser's questions before the provided deadline and instead passed those questions along to Water NSW.

A Water NSW spokesman said the public exhibition period for the proposed Warragamba Dam wall-raising environmental impact statement (EIS) closed on December 19 last year.

"WaterNSW will now review the submissions received during the public exhibition and address the issues raised in a submissions report to the Department of Planning and Environment (DPIE)," he said.

The DPIE, the consent authority for this project, also submitted its own response to the EIS.

It stated that the department's Environment, Energy and Science Group "does 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".

"Notably, the EIS makes incorrect assumptions about how to determine World Heritage values, and therefore how to evaluate impacts on those values," the submission states.

"The EIS incorrectly identifies that Aboriginal heritage is not part of World Heritage values. Aboriginal heritage is part of the World Heritage values, as it is part of the integrity of the property.

"There is a risk that cultural values of high significance have not been identified, resulting in impacts on those values not being assessed."

Mr Ayres' representative said "it was not unusual to see concerns raised by other agencies" and that this submission would also receive a response as a part of the process moving forward.

This story Environmental advocate calls for Western Sydney minister to resign over Warragamba Dam wall plan first appeared on Wollondilly Advertiser.