Earth First has asked all candidates contesting the Orange by-election for their responses to questions of local and state environmental importance. Candidates were given the opportunity to express their views on environmental issues concerning water management, renewable energy, waste management, protection of water resources and prime agricultural land , and the protection of biodiversity and Crown land. Specifically, they were asked about their opinions on such controversial issues as the proposed Belubula River dam and the Mount Canobolas mountain bike trail. We received replies from Greens Candidate Janelle Bicknell, National Party candidate Scott Barrett and Labor Party candidate Bernard Fitzsimons.
This week we will be reporting what they have to say about water security. The question on water security put to candidates was “ What are the major water security issues in the Orange electorate and what part should a dam on the Belubula River play in an environmentally sustainable water security plan for our region?
National Party candidate Scott Barrett's reply was as follows: Having secure and available water is vital to unlock the potential of the Central West. We need to focus on building new dams and expanding the storage capacity of existing facilities.
New dams, such as the one proposed for the Belubula River, provide multiple benefits for the region, including water security for our towns and communities, tourism, recreation opportunities and irrigation opportunities for our farmers and flood mitigation for our towns. We have seen with the recent floods in and around Forbes the important role that dams can play in flood mitigation.
Labor Party candidate Bernard Fitzsimons responded to the question by saying “The major water security issues we face in Orange are the same as the rest of the State; increasing demand for a reliable resource whilst maintaining the integrity of the catchment/aquifer system. NSW Labor are committed to ensuring that the Orange Electorate has a secure water supply well into the future, but not a secure future which compromises the rights of existing users or is environmentally unsustainable. We will explore all other options before we consider the construction of a dam.
The Belubula system and Cleifden caves need heritage listing Not a 19th century solution to a 21st century problem.
Greens candidate, Janelle Bicknell replied, saying: The Greens oppose any new dams.Dams represent outdated technology. They take time to build and are last century technology. We need to be looking into sustainable methods of water security, such as storm water harvesting, recycled water and improved methods of irrigation. The proposed dam either at Needles Gap or Cranky Rock will have a detrimental impact on the Cleifden Caves,the thermal springs and the fragile local eco system. The Belubula River is already extensively dammed. Further damming of the river will impact on downstream water users.
Next week, read about our candidates' views on renewable energy, and how they would promote renewable energy in our region.