THEY may be on opposite sides of the Macquarie Pipeline debate, but long-term opponent of the project Cyril Smith and supporter councillor Scott Munro both described Monday’s site tour as a momentous day.
After battling for years to have the pipeline scrapped, a small group of opponents arranged to meet for a picnic at the Long Point crossing to coincide with the council’s launch of the project.
They were barred from going on site because they weren’t wearing enclosed shoes, but still managed to sneak a peek at work from a private property nearby where a ‘no Macquarie Pipeline’ sign was conspicuous.
“We’re not here to cause any hassles,” Mr Smith said.
“It’s a very momentous occasion.”
With the sound of excavators in the background, Mr Smith conceded it was “definitely too late” to stop the pipeline, but said he was disappointed the state and federal government didn’t look at broader regional water security issues before giving the $47 million project the okay.
Mr Smith said with the Macquarie River reaching a low point of four megalitres per day at the Long Point gauge last week, and the pipeline only able to be used when the river flowed at 108 megalitres per day, it would not have been switched on from October 21 last year.
Project manager John Marshall said the council was required to continue modelling the river’s flows and now had a stream gauge in place at Long Point to deliver real data.
“This is the construction phase, we’re building the pipeline, the approval’s been granted and operating rules will apply,” he said.
“Yes there are certain trigger points ... [but] before the end of this calendar year we expect to be turning things on.”
Cr Chris Gryllis acknowledged there may be still be objectors to the pipeline, but said many people had told him they wanted to see the job completed to benefit Orange.
“It’s definitely on time and it will definitely be on budget,” he said.