THE state government has upped the ante for a proposed dam at Needles Gap by allocating another $3.5 million to the project, but it has backed down from its five-year time frame.
Minister for Natural Resources, Land and Water Kevin Humphries was in the central west on Friday to visit landholders along the Belubula River who would be impacted by the proposed $90,000 megalitre dam.
The state government announced $1 million for a scoping and feasibility study in its budget, handed down last month, but Mr Humphries said a further $3.5 million would be allocated over the next one to two years for a full scoping feasibility study and cost analysis.
“We’re not wrapping a timeframe around the project at the moment because it’s all about feasibility, its about scoping, about cost benefit analysis and looking at who the end users of water would be, how could it be paid for, under what circumstances would it operate,” he said.
“This government is about ... driving infrastructure, but we’re not building dams for the sake of it.”
Member for Orange Andrew Gee said the project had been broached for more than 100 years and landholders needed some certainty about when, where, why and how the project was going to impact them.
He said it was a perfectly valid concern landholders had and a visit from the minister was the first step in the consultation process.
He said the next step would be a meeting with State Water.
Mr Humphries would not say how many landholders he met with, but said the government would keep stakeholders up to date.
“People along the way with any new development they’ll have concerns. Usually those concerns are about lack of knowledge,” he said.
“I won’t say they’re behind the project, people want to know what the project is about.”
Mr Humphries would not speculate on whether the Cliefden Caves, located at the Needles Gap dam site, could be saved if the dam was given the go ahead, nor would he confirm whether the government was looking at another site along the river such as at Cranky Rock near Canowindra.
“Certainly the community would like to see a site settled sooner than later,” he said.