Local communities are overwhelmingly supportive of the NSW government’s plan to construct a new dam near Tamworth and increase the storage capacity of the existing Wyangala dam, according to a recent independent survey.

An analysis of community and stakeholder sentiment towards the two major projects indicates that, overall, people feel the new Dungowan Dam (88%) and Wyangala Dam wall raising projects (84%) will have a positive impact on residents and local businesses.

The research survey involved close to 850 community members in discussions about the projects, including residents, businesses and stakeholders with diverse interests relating to the dams.

Minister for Water, Property and Housing Melinda Pavey said that the survey showed local communities identified longer-term water security and reliability benefits as significant positive outcomes as well as local economic and tourism gains.

“This survey reinforces what we already know, that these communities want this government to invest in infrastructure that will shore-up future water security for towns and farmers while also providing economic stimulus and jobs to help the regions continue to recover from the pandemic,” Minister Pavey said. 

“Almost $1million has been invested to date in regional economies during extensive preliminary works associated with these significant state infrastructure projects.”

According to the survey at least three quarters of respondents said the new Dungowan Dam and Wyangala Dam wall raising would improve longer term water security (80% in Dungowan and 77% in Wyangala) and create jobs and stimulate the economy (75% in Dungowan and 77% in Wyangala).

“We were also very interested to understand the primary concerns of these communities which were highlighted as potential water costs and environmental impacts – we hear these concerns and will continue to engage with local communities on these important matters as the projects move ahead.” 

WaterNSW is continuing extensive investigations and data collating for the hydrology and flood models for the Wyangala Dam Wall Raising project, which are key to finalising the inundation level, associated mapping, and therefore the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke and member for Tamworth Kevin Anderson said that the surveys just reaffirmed what they have been hearing in their local communities that there is very strong support for the projects and noted that the community was looking forward to seeing the final details of the projects mid next year when the business case and EIS are completed.

“Geotechnical explorations and extensive environmental and cultural heritage field-surveys are included among the work that has already taken place, alongside consultation with a range of landholders and community groups.”

“The preliminary planning activity has already created employment, business activity and local investment totaling $1million.”

While progress on all three projects continues in earnest, WaterNSW will take advantage of some minor rescheduling to extend consultation with key stakeholders groups, most notably the lease holders of the Reflections Holiday Park on the Wyangala Dam foreshore, and local Aboriginal groups.

The scheduling adjustments will not affect the delivery of the draft environmental impact statement and final business case, due for completion in 2021, nor the commencement of main works construction itself.