While the EIS states 44 flora and 11 fauna species listed by the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, none of these would generate compensation under the proposed strategy between a full dam and a one-in-five-year event, the document shows.
The federal government “would seek the offsets” for impacts on those species, Planning said, citing the regent honeyeater as just one of the species “that may be significantly impacted with an increased risk of extinction” by the wall raising.
Colong Foundation’s campaign manager Harry Burkitt said Minister for Western Sydney Stuart Ayres and some bureaucrats were “attempting to disregard government regulation so they can destroy hundreds of Aboriginal cultural sites and 65 kilometres of pristine wild rivers in the Blue Mountains”.
“What they are doing is in direct contravention to the federal government’s obligations under the World Heritage Convention,” he said. “WaterNSW know if they pay what the law requires them to for environmental offsetting – which is over $1 billion – it would blow the project’s business case out of the water.”
Mr Ayres said lifting the wall 14 metres “would very significantly reduce flood risk to the lives and livelihoods of more than 130,000 people who currently live and work in the [Hawkesbury-Nepean] floodplain”.
“To properly assess the dam raising proposal, the NSW government is committed to completing the environmental impact assessment process,” he said.
“Importantly, the final decision on the dam raising proposal will only be made after all environmental, cultural, financial and planning assessments are complete.”
A spokeswoman for Planning said the department had consulted “relevant government agencies to identify matters where additional details would assist in informing a full assessment”, adding it had “not formed a view on the merits of the proposal”.
WaterNSW said the draft EIS “was prepared to comply with the environmental assessment requirements” set by the Planning Department, and agencies were “progressively” providing feedback to ensure the final version meets requirements. It will be made public when completed, a spokesman said.
Kate Washington, Labor’s environment spokeswoman, said “time and time again the biodiversity laws introduced by the Berejiklian government have failed to protect the environment”.
“Now we discover the government is shamelessly trying to evade its own woefully inadequate laws,” she said. “If their project causes so much harm to the environment that it’s going to cost tens of millions of dollars in offsets, they should be honest and upfront with the public about that damage and about the cost.”
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Peter Hannam writes on environment issues for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.