Friday, June 9, 2023

This dam’s expansion is tipped to cost more than triple original estimates, but it lacks a funding commitment

The federal government has refused to say whether it will commit the extra funding needed for one of Australia’s largest infrastructure projects.

The estimated cost of raising Wyangala Dam’s wall near Cowra in the NSW central west has soared from $650 million to up to $2.1 billion.

After the project was announced in 2019 the state and federal governments struck a deal to each pay half of the bill.

If the new price tag is accurate, both will have to chip in considerably more money.

The project has not featured in this year’s federal election campaign, with the Nationals instead announcing new money for other dam projects such as Hells Gate in Queensland.

Wyangala Dam lies in the seat of Riverina, held by Nationals MP and former deputy prime minister Michael McCormack.

“I am very much in favor of it,” Mr McCormack said.

“I think it prevents the flooding that Forbes finds so often [and] we don’t want to see that again.

“While I appreciate there have been some people complaining [of] a raising of the dam wall, it would increase agricultural capacity so substantially in that area.”

Wyangala dam: a divisive plan to raise the dam wall
The rising of the Wyangala Dam wall will mean more water can be stored at the reservoir to prevent major flooding downstream.,Landline,

But Mr McCormack has stopped short of promising to deliver anymore funding to raise the dam wall.

A man with gray hair wearing a navy suit and aqua tie standing in front of a long white corridor
Mr McCormack is urging his state counterparts to complete the project’s business case.,Nation World News: Tamara Penniket,

The business case for the project had been due to be completed in 2021 but is now expected this year.

Work is also ongoing to prepare an environmental impact statement.

Mr McCormack has urged his state counterparts to make progress on the project.

“New South Wales also needs to come on board and like everybody stop talking about it and just get on with it, get the business cases done if they need to get done, get the environmental impact statements and then look at construction.

Broad support for dam

Man smiling at camera
Mr Jeffreson is having a second tilt at politics with the federal election. ,Supplied: ALP,

There is widespread support for the project among candidates contesting the seat of Riverina.

Labor’s Mark Jeffreson said he backed the project but believed greater scrutiny was needed given the potential cost blowout.

“Labor will commit to sit down with all the interested parties and move toward a solution that’s going to be OK for everybody,” Mr Jeffreson said.

He said he had doubts over whether the project will ever happen.

“Like a lot of promises they’ve made in this campaign, when the rubber meets the road if they’re re-elected it’s a question of will they be able to deliver or not because they haven’t been able to deliver on their promises from the last campaign.

“There’s no reason they’ll do any better this time around.”

The Greens’ candidate Michael Organ shares Labor’s misgivings about the federal Coalition’s ability to deliver the project.

“The Greens support major infrastructure projects,” Mr Organ said.

“We need to do the reviews. We need to make sure that [if] we’re investing all this money that it’s the best outcome

“They’re not really engaging enough with communities, considering the actual economic case for some of these issues.

The ABC has contacted the UAP’s candidate Daniel Martelozzo for a response.

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