30th May 2023.
"My question is directed to the Premier. Given that the damaging and short-sighted plans to raise the Warragamba Dam wall have been shelved, will the Premier today rule out the raising of the dam wall? Will the Premier also confirm that there are no plans to raise the wall and outline the measures his Government will take to mitigate the risk of future governments wanting to damage the electorate of Wollondilly for the benefit of some land developers downstream?"
Mr CHRIS MINNS (Kogarah—Premier): I thank the member for her question and I welcome her to the House. She gave a wonderful inaugural speech last week. As members will be aware, the original cost of raising the Warragamba Dam wall was estimated to be $690 million when it was first proposed by former Premier Mike Baird. The estimated cost today is $2 billion for construction and biodiversity offsets of an additional $1 billion—we think. It could be higher than that. At the end of the day, the budget for such a massive project is huge for the New South Wales taxpayer. It will surprise no-one in this Chamber that not a dollar was set aside in relation to this project, despite the fact that it had been promised repeatedly by the previous Government. I confirm to the House, and I confirm to the member, that the Government will not be progressing with raising the Warragamba Dam wall by 14 metres.
Ms Robyn Preston: Shame on you.
Mr CHRIS MINNS: Not at all. The member for Hawkesbury says shame on us. She will not say to the House that 45 per cent of floodwaters in that region come from tributaries and rivers, not over the top of Warragamba Dam. She will not say that, nor will she divulge to the House that the previous Government had a plan to double the population on the flood plain. Faced with doubling the population on the flood plain and Labor's reasonable plans in relation to urban consolidation, they are against both at the end of the day. I thought it was interesting to hear the former environment Minister—he is now the shadow Minister for Health—during the election campaign. In 2019 the ABC reported that he said, "By the time you pay for offsets for the damage done because of the raising of the wall, the cost to offset it will not make sense—the business case will not stack up." Fair enough. The only problem is that a couple of months later he went on to say:
If it's a choice between water lapping up in people's living rooms, or water lapping up in the national park ...
He said to put "people before plants". What a man of principle he is. He then went on to say:
I have been a fierce advocate for our environment, I'll continue to be a fierce advocate for our environment ...
That is notwithstanding the fact that, as the former environment Minister and the member for Wollondilly would be aware, going ahead with raising the Warragamba Dam wall would inundate 4,700 hectares of the World Heritage protected Blue Mountains National Park, and 1,200 Aboriginal sites and artefacts would be inundated as a result of this project. Add that to the fact that there is no money in the budget for it at all. [Extension of time]
The bottom line is that, despite the protestations of the member for Hawkesbury, not one dollar and not one initiative was put into the Warragamba Dam wall in 12 years by the previous Government. We are being honest about our intentions in relation to this wall. We will not build it. We will report to the House of any geotechnical risks associated with the wall and take action when it comes about. I say to the House that the 14‑metre Warragamba Dam wall, which would cost $3 billion and inundate the Blue Mountains National Park, will not go ahead under a Labor government.