Suite 202 Rouse Hill Town Centre, 10-14 Market Lane, ROUSE HILL NSW 2155

Use the archive on the right to view older articles.

Warragamba Dam

Mr RAY WILLIAMS ( Castle Hill ) ( 12:30 :26 ): I move:

That this House:

(1) Notes the $58 million investment in the 2016-17 State Budget to raise the Warragamba Dam wall by 14 metres.

(2) Notes the significant protection from flooding that this measure will provide for communities in Western Sydney.

Warragamba Dam is well known by almost everybody in metropolitan Sydney, given the majority of them draw their water from that dam. The dam was commenced in the late 1940s and completed in 1960. At the opening of the dam in 1960, a senior hydrologist involved with its construction was reported to state that whilst Warragamba Dam was not a flood mitigation dam but a water storage dam, the provision of this piece of infrastructure would preclude a flood ever occurring in the Hawkesbury-Nepean district in the future and that it would take a minimum of 10 years of weather to completely fill the dam.

In 1961, one year after the senior hydrologist said that, the Hawkesbury-Nepean area witnessed the worst flood since European settlement at a height of almost 15 metres. My family remember that flood. As I stated in my introductory remarks, my first ancestor to the Hawkesbury, Joseph Wright, arrived on the First Fleet and was fortunate to have been given a land grant in the Hawkesbury area. Shortly after another descendant, James Whalan, arrived and also received a land grant in the Hawkesbury area. My family has remained in the Hawkesbury area to this day and during that time there have been approximately 120 floods. We have also seen the very serious floods upwards and above 11 to 14 metres that have occurred unfortunately every decade since records have been maintained.

In 1990 my family had a metre of water through our own home. When one has elderly parents, and a grandmother in her 90s, I know it is absolutely traumatic to have to evacuate a home that is inundated with water. My family was one of the lucky ones that could return to their home and get on with life, but many people suffered the destruction of property. Floods rise very rapidly, as a matter of fact in a matter of hours, in the Hawkesbury‑Nepean area once water breaches the Warragamba Dam. People can go to sleep some nights and wake up with paddocks inundated, and horses, animals, cattle and cows floating dead in the river or washed downstream because of the devastation of flood.

Currently, it is recognised that 134,000 people either reside or work in the Hawkesbury-Nepean flood area and it is the worst flood-affected area in New South Wales, if not this country. In 1993 the Greiner and Fahey Government made a responsible decision to raise the wall of Warragamba Dam and put in place infrastructure at the dam that would mitigate the risk of flood. Unfortunately, in 1995 a Labor Government was elected under Premier Bob Carr and that project was cancelled. Fast forward to this Liberal-Nationals Government today with the announcement of an injection of $58 million, in Tuesday’s budget of $73 billion, which is the first phase of funding towards a commitment of some $700 million to raise the Warragamba Dam wall.

The Hawkesbury-Nepean valley between Penrith and Sackville has the greatest flood risk in New South Wales. Floods in this valley pose a risk to life and property due to the unique topography of the area. Following detailed evaluation by an expert task force led by Infrastructure NSW it was identified that raising Warragamba Dam by 14 metres was the most cost-effective solution to significantly reduce risk to life and potential economic impacts in the valley. Raising the Warragamba Dam wall by 14 metres to reduce flood risk in the Hawkesbury‑Nepean valley is estimated to cost $690 million. As I said, $58 million was provided in the budget: $30 million for detailed concept designs, environmental assessments and preparation of the full business case to raise the Warragamba Dam wall, and $28 million to increase community flood risk awareness, create evacuation signage, improve flood forecasting and integrate the flood risk management with regional planning.

Raising the dam wall is also expected to reduce potential economic impacts from flood risk by about 75 per cent on average. This will provide additional protection for townships downstream of the dam that are built on a floodplain, including Windsor, Richmond and parts of Penrith. The current full storage level at Warragamba Dam will not be changed: The raised dam wall is only for temporary storage of floodwaters during large flood events. I welcome this critical piece of infrastructure and once again credit our Premier and Minister for Western Sydney for it.