The New South Wales State Labor Government of is preparing to spend $406 million to dam the Williams River above the town of Dungog to create a dam the size of Sydney Harbour.
There is a growing campaign based around the “Save the Williams River coalition” and No Tillegra Dam Groups. Dungog and surrounding areas will be most affected by the dam because it involves swallowing up 3500 hectares of prime farming land by flooding 90 farms and one cemetery land. Naturalist and filmmaker Nigel Williams, said the dam would be nothing short of disastrous for numerous local species of fish, plants and birds including at least 200 platypus.
Local people are unclear why the dam is proposed in the Hunter region because there have been no water restrictions for 20 years and all its reservoirs are full. Currently almost 40 per cent of Newcastle’s water supply is from the Chichester dam and the proposed dam would be twenty times the size of Chichester.
An independent study by BIS Shrapnel projected current water supplies would be sufficient, even including population growth, until 2030. A proposal to pipe any excess water to Sydney was shown to be prohibitively expensive. The other rationale was that it could supply water to the NSW Central Coast – in fact the dam was announced as a knee jerk reaction to placate people living in marginal seats.
Since its announcement the NSW Central Coast has received funding for its own water solutions. Despite this the Managing Director of Hunter Water, Kevin Young, continues to argue that the dam is needed as a ‘zero risk’ insurance policy against the area running out of water in light of population growth and climate change predictions.
When asked about supplying residents with free water tanks to conserve water he argued that it would not be sufficient and that there would be no attempt to consider funding alternate propositions.
The NSW Minister for Water, Phil Costa, stated that Tillegra Dam was the ‘best solution’ for the area but they were still considering the proposal. The only zero risk is to Hunter Water because it is local people who will pay for this plan with Hunter Water customers paying an extra $169 on household water bills – a 36 per cent increase and the companies who will earn millions in profits from the engineering project.
By Samantha Ashby