Water Week

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$6.5m commonwealth grant to increase NSW’s Chaffey Dam capacity at odds with Fed Govt’s stated aims, says Foundation

Posted by waterweek on 25 September 2007

Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile recently announced a $6.5 million commonwealth grant towards work to increase the capacity of Chaffey Dam, praising the lobbying efforts of Nationals candidate Phil Betts, who is trying to prise the seat of New England from popular long-serving independent Tony Windsor, according to Lenore Taylor, national affairs writer, reported in The Australian Financial Review (20/9/2007, p. 10).
Positive thinking dam it

Conservationists and locals left wondering: Betts was also chairman of the Chaffey Dam upgrade community group. The upgrade, also being funded by the state Labor government, would increase the capacity of the dam by 40 gigalitres to improve water security for the residents of the growing city of Tamworth and some local irrigators. But the Australian Conservation Foundation’s Arlene Buchan said although the upgrade did not involve an increase in irrigation licences, increasing the capacity of a dam in the Murray-Darling Basin system is “totally at odds” with the federal government’s stated aim of improving water flows. Local irrigator Phil Spark, whose farm is below the Chaffey Dam, said he “can’t understand why Tamworth is so special that it gets more water while everyone else in the Murray-Darling basin is supposed to cut back. I can’t see how capturing and storing more water helps address the problem of over-allocation of water in the basin, which is what the federal government says it is trying to do.”

Pointed praise: Vaile said the funding announcement “follows persistent and patient lobbying by local Nationals led by Phil Betts and Senator Sandy McDonald”. Vaile added: “I have been particularly impressed with the way Phil Betts has refused to give up on this project.” Chaffey Dam is on the Peel River, which flows into the Namoi River, which flows into the Darling. Its present capacity is 62 gigalitres. Mr Betts said construction would start in the middle of next year.

The Australian Financial Review, 20/9/2007, p. 10

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