Water Week

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Resource conflict in NSW; Federal contribution sought for Chaffey Dam enlargement proposal

Posted by waterweek on 21 September 2007

Conflict was emerging over the existence of 500 million tonnes of coal and vast quantities of groundwater on the Liverpool plains, said Independent MP Tony Windsor in the Federal Parliament on 13 August 2007.

Rich resources: “I raised a question in question time today with the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources in relation to the proposed BHP Billiton mine on the Liverpool Plains,” Windsor said. “There is believed to be a coal resource there of about 500 million tonnes. That is an extraordinary amount of coal. One of the difficulties that are being encountered both by BHP and very much by the landholders involved is that that particular area of land, the Liverpool Plains, is some of the best country in the world in agricultural productivity. It has beautiful, black, self-mulching soils interspersed with some red gravel ridges. The other outstanding feature of that country is that there are enormous amounts of groundwater to be found in certain parts of that particular region. A dispute is developing between those who own the land and those who have access to the groundwater about the impact that a longwall mine and a surface mine could have on the groundwater resources,” Windsor said.

Chaffey Dam upgrade: “The other issue I want to mention today is related to water as well and, again, I raised this question in parliament last week,” said Windsor. “It is the issue of an enlargement of Chaffey Dam, which is the major water supply for Tamworth city and the Peel River irrigators. This dam has been down as low as 15 per cent of storage. It is up over 20 per cent at the moment, so it is a fairly delicate situation. The proposal that has been put together over the last five years is that an upgrade take place at the time when a safety upgrade is required.”

Federal funding contribution sought: “The state government will fund that [safety upgrade]. I think it is something like $14 million to do the safety upgrade, Windsor said. “The state government which, as the minister rightly pointed out last week, is mainly responsible for this particular enlargement proposal has agreed to part-fund an enlargement whilst the safety upgrade takes place because of the obvious economic benefits of doing both together. The local council has agreed to part-fund this. The irrigators, who will be part-beneficiaries in terms of security – there will be no more water allocated to them; their licences will not be increased but their security of water will be improved – have agreed to part-fund it. And the Commonwealth has been asked for $6.5 million as a contribution towards that particular arrangement. So we are talking about a $29 million enlargement and safety upgrade and the Commonwealth has been asked for $6.5 million.”

Reference: Mr Anthony Harold Curties Windsor, Member for New England. NSW, Ind, Federal Parliament, House of Representatives, Hansard, Monday 13 August 2007. A copy of these proceedings can be found at

Erisk Net, 15/8/2007


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