Water security or pipeline the $18m question

OPPONENTS of the Macquarie pipeline want the state government to confirm once and for all that $18 million in funding for Orange City Council is not specifically for the pipeline.

Inland Waterways Rejuvenation Association president Matt Hansen says the government needs to remove all doubt about whether the money it has allocated for Orange’s water security can be spent on projects other than the pipeline.

It follows recent statements by member for Orange Andrew Gee that the money is for general water security projects, and is not tied to the pipeline.

Orange City Council has countered this claim with advice from the NSW Office of Water saying the money is only for the pipeline.

“[Greens MLC] Jeremy Buckingham has already asked the question, as has Andrew Gee, but Orange City Council has continued to maintain the money is just for the pipeline,” Mr Hansen said.

“We want an official answer from [Primary Industries Minister] Katrina Hodgkinson because it would be nice to find out what the truth is.”

Shooters and Fishers Party MLC Robert Brown is expected to ask the government again what the money is for in Parliament this week.

Anti-pipeline groups have also formalised their alliance to campaign together against the project.

The Orange and Region Water Security Alliance is made up of the Orange Ratepayers Association, the Friends of the Macquarie River, the Inland Rivers Network, the Inland Waterways Rejuvenation Association and the Environmentally Concerned Citizens of Orange.

The alliance said it wants the council to complete its Integrated Water Cycle Catchment Management Strategy, as required under state policy, before making further progress on the pipeline.

The Central Western Daily asked Mrs Hodgkinson’s office if the money was only for the pipeline.

“The NSW government has committed $18.2 million towards the Macquarie pipeline project, as agreed with Orange City Council and the federal government,” Ms Hodgkinson said.

“If Orange City Council’s priorities change and they no longer wish to pursue the pipeline project, the NSW government funding will remain committed to water security projects in the region.”