Giving a dam: Needles Gap funding to provide water security for region

FILL HER UP: Member for Calare John Cobb at the Needles Gap proposed dam site in January.
FILL HER UP: Member for Calare John Cobb at the Needles Gap proposed dam site in January.

NSW Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner on Friday gave a dam. 

Mr Stoner announced the state government would fund a dam at Needles Gap, between Canowindra and Mandurama, with part of $325 million set aside in Tuesday’s budget for water security. 

The 90,000 megalitre dam was expected to cost about $150 million and the state government announced it would fund it in its entirety, before a feasibility study was conducted. 

Member for Orange Andrew Gee said the announcement would mean growth expansion for the region in areas such as mining, food processing and agriculture. 

That means jobs. 

“The great thing about the Needles Gap Dam it gives the region a greater boost of confidence because operators who considered setting up here now can, because of the water security,” he said. 

Mr Gee said Mr Stoner chose the Needles Gap Dam above others because it benefited up to eight local government areas and was the most likely to produce “consistent growth”. 

Member for Calare John Cobb revived the Needles Gap Dam idea in January but was unable to convince the federal government it was worth funding. 

“Andrew Stoner has proved himself to be the regional political leader in Australia,” he said. 

Landholders who would have to relocate because of the project would be well compensated and the community would have no tolerance for anyone who stood in the way of expansion in the central west, Mr Cobb warned.

Orange mayor John Davis said the dam would mean the area could be the prominent food basin of NSW because there would be enough water to grow, cultivate and process harvests. 

Water security studies had placed the Needles Gap Dam as a lower priority compared to other projects such as the Macquarie pipeline.  Cr Davis said it was because of the cost of the dam and the time it would take to build it.

“It will take say around five years and in that time we could have another drought so the [Macquarie] pipeline was still the best option at the time,” he said. 

Planning for the project is expected to take about two years and building another two years.

Cr Davis said industry would start moving in almost immediately. 

“There’s half a dozen mining projects in the works which will all of a sudden come to the forefront,” he said. 

Cabonne councillor Lachie MacSmith said the dam should have been built before the pipeline because the dam meant Bathurst, Orange, Cabonne, Blayney, Cowra, Parkes, Forbes and Grenfell would benefit, not just Orange. 

“The government should immediately provide a substantial amount for an initial planning study and ongoing allocations for the dam’s construction,” he said. 

Mr Gee said there would be a few hurdles to overcome in terms of planning but the project would be started as soon as possible. 

Mr Stoner told a press conference yesterday the funding was not dependent on the sale of electricity infrastructure.


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