FORMER Member for Calare John Cobb has advised his successor to make water security a top priority during his first term in Canberra.
Andrew Gee made his maiden speech in Federal parliament on Wednesday, outlining a host of issues facing the central west he intends to tackle.
His wish-list included an upgrade to Dixon’s Long Point road, an expressway or a tunnel built on the Bells Line of Road, the Murray Darling Medical School based in Orange, Wagga and Bendigo and federal assistance for a water security project in the region.
Mr Cobb urged the new member to make the latter a priority.
“A dam is the most important thing for the whole region,” Mr Cobb said.
“It’s a heartland issue the whole Central West needs for its future.
“The Central West is the best part of the country but without water we can’t realise the benefits for the future.”
During his 15 years in Canberra Mr Cobb pushed hard to see a dam built on the Belubula River, a cause he’s hopeful Mr Gee will also champion to the Government’s power brokers.
“It’s not just for urban water supply or development, it would give better security to irrigators that already exist,” Mr Cobb argued.
“It would boost confidence for abattoirs, manufacturers and mining.
“There’s very few businesses that produce something and employ people which don’t require water.”
Mr Cobb said getting any such a project off the ground would take a “push from the federal water minister, NSW deputy premier and NSW premier”.
The former member – who was elected in the seat of Parkes in 2001 before assuming Peter Andren’s position in Calare in 2007 – also cautioned Mr Gee about his aspirations for the crossing at Dixon’s Long Point.
While noting the thoroughfare’s importance as a direct route from Orange to Mudgee Mr Cobb said the undertaking would be “hugely expensive” and a better target for Mr Gee’s energy was the Bells Line of Road.
“They need to concentrate on getting a freeway through the mountains,” Mr Cobb said.
“They’ve put aside money to do it but they haven’t reserved a corridor for the Bells Line of Road.
“The money’s there but there’s nowhere to put in a freeway.”
Mr Gee was approached for comment.