Independent MP Justin Field has warned NSW Premier Gladys Berijiklian to protect the integrity of the state’s planning system and not give special powers over dam planning and approvals to the NSW Nationals.
The call follows media reporting that Nationals Leader John Barilaro and Water Minister Melinda Pavey will put a proposal to cabinet this week to give water infrastructure approval powers to Water NSW and given the Water Minister the ability to direct the planning department to fastrack assessments and cut requirements for environmental studies.
Justin Field said, “The disasters in water management in NSW show the Nationals shouldn’t even have the Water portfolio. Giving the Nationals dam planning powers is like giving a bank robber keys to the bank. The Nationals have had eight years to plan for future droughts and water shortages in regional towns but have spent their time looking after their big corporate irrigator mates.
Dams don’t bring rain and any claim that dams will solve this current drought is a lie. There is no good reason to fastrack proposals that will not have an impact on the current drought. This is an opportunistic move by the Nationals to gift more water to irrigators at the expense of downstream communities and the environment. Towns are in crisis and the environment is suffering but this is as much a failure of management as it is a result of the drought. There has been little investment in water efficiency and recycling which is often more cost effective and less damaging than alternatives.
“The Nationals at a State and Federal level are always talking about dams but they almost never get built because they don’t stack up. There is a finite amount of water in any system and a new dam doesn’t make more water. Spending billions of public money deserves a proper planning process and cost-benefit analysis. The Nationals spent $500 million on the Broken Hill pipeline to distract from their atrocious management of the Upper Darling. It was only after years of investigation to uncover the final business case that we realised a major reason for this huge expenditure of public money was to provide more water to Northern Basin irrigators.
“NSW doesn’t need fast-tracked dams, it needs a genuine plan to manage our valuable water resources within natural limits of our unpredictable environment. That needs a whole of Government planning process guided by the science, not a blank check for the National Party who have proven they can’t be trusted on water.