Job losses: John Cobb gives a dam

THE sheer scale of the 1100-plus job losses Calare is facing will have a much more devastating impact than those in Melbourne and Adelaide, according to member for Calare John Cobb.

But he is puzzled why Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane has copped so much flak about the federal government’s response to Calare’s pending jobs crisis.

Mr Cobb said his colleague did not walk away from the issue, when he suggested the management of changes at Electrolux was up to the company, but was instead referring to the redundancies the workers would receive rather than their chances of finding a job after the closure.

“The commonwealth steps in if the company goes broke and doesn’t have the wherewithal to provide those things,” Mr Cobb said.

Mr Cobb was critical of the federal government’s $60 million commitment towards a growth fund for Adelaide and Melbourne, saying the money did not create an actual project to help redundant workers recover.

Whereas his push for a dam at Needles Gap would create jobs for Calare workers, if he can attract the support of his colleagues.

“I think we have to find what to target here ... rather than just say oh there’s a big heap of money  there isn’t a big heap of money, we all know that,” he said.

Mr Cobb said he would not support incentives for manufacturing companies to set up in Calare if they were unable to be viable on their own.

“I would really hate to see us encourage fly by night ...  want to find the solutions, not the fantasies,” he said.

Mr Cobb said he could understand why people believed it was Calare’s status as a safe Coalition seat and location in a regional area that meant it missed out on government attention, but he was confident within two years the redundant workers would all have a job.

He believes the Needles dam could reach construction phase within two-and-a-half years.

And if the federal government committed to the project, it would give mining companies confidence to get started on constructing new mines knowing water would be available by the time the mines reached the water-heavy processing phase.

“If mining got going earlier ... I reckon there’d be well over 500 jobs there,” he said.

“Nothing flows on to other industries like water does including urban development.”

Despite the federal government’s economy drive, Mr Cobb said investing in the dam would cement its status as an “infrastructure government” and create a return for taxpayers.

In the meantime he won’t give up on other avenues to help Calare recover, but remained tight-lipped on what they were saying he would have more to reveal in coming weeks.

He hinted that an abattoir was a possibility, but said the venture would rely on a secure water supply - another reason to build the dam.

“I’ve been encouraged to come out and say things before I’m ready to and I’m not going to,” he said.

“I have written to Tony Abbott and Warren Truss and the Water Minister about [the dam]... but [Ian] Macfarlane’s area of expertise is still very much involved.”

Watershed - grand plan for Needles Gap

By BRYANT HEVESI

NEEDLES Gap near Canowindra has once again been earmarked as a site for a new dam, decades after a water storage facility was originally slated for the area.

Member for Calare John Cobb is behind the latest push to construct a 90,000 megalitre dam in the area - he just needs his own government to support the $150 million proposal.

Mr Cobb joined the mayors of Orange, Cabonne, Blayney and Bathurst to form a united regional front of support to press his case that the need for the dam was “huge”.

“If the climate change people are right, there will be less rain which is much more reason and need to build more water storage,” Mr Cobb said. 

“Australia hasn’t built a major dam in 40 years. The need is huge. 

“This will solve the water crisis now and well into the future.”

Mr Cobb said the dam was also needed to provide a “confidence boost” for Calare and combat recent job losses across the region, including at Electrolux.

“It creates jobs and productively and gives investors confidence [to sit] up and do it,” he said. 

To get the project off the ground, Mr Cobb needs to convince his government colleagues, including Prime Minister Tony Abbott, to hand over $3 million for the Office of State Water to conduct a detailed feasibility study, which includes environmental, geotechnical and preliminary design work.

If given the green light, Mr Cobb said it would take five years to construct the dam and cost somewhere in the vicinity of $150 million, though that was “not the final figure”.

Central Tablelands Water deputy chair David Somervaille said it would be a reasonably inexpensive dam per volume of water and would free up Carcoar Dam, which is currently used for irrigation, as a source of drinking water. 

Orange mayor John Davis said his council “certainly” supported the idea of a new dam as he praised Mr Cobb for “thinking outside the square”.

“We need to back up John Cobb - all councils,” he said. 

“It’s absolutely fantastic - a great opportunity.” 

“People should look at it in a positive manner and not how we can’t do it.” 

“The federal government have shown ... they are interested in dams.”

Cr Davis said obtaining funding for the dam would be a “hard boat to row”, but Mr Cobb has “the support to make it happen”. 

Needles Gap was previously identified as a dam site, though political decisions at the time were blamed on the project failing to materialise. 

A dam was instead built at Carcoar.

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