FEDERAL Member for New England Barnaby Joyce believes the construction of the shelved Apsley River dam would deliver jobs, zero-emission electricity and much needed water for the Murray Darling Basin system.
Mr Joyce, who is chairman of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s Dams Task Force committee, said he had been charged by the PM to identify and promote potential dam sites around the nation to improve water storage capacity and generate vital infrastructure programs.
He said the Apsley River project, east of Walcha, had been identified by the NSW Electricity Commission in 1983 to supply water for hydro electricity generation. The project also had the capacity to lift water back across the Dividing Range by way of a series of tunnels and pipelines to put water into the McDonald River which would then flow into the Murray Darling Basin.
“But the then State Labor Government [under the late Neville Wran’s premiership] who didn’t believe in regional NSW pulled the plug on the project,” Mr Joyce said.
“As chairman of the Prime Minister’s Dams Task Force Committee I have to provide a list of dams we will build and how we will pay for them,” Mr Joyce said.
Mr Joyce said the original report prepared for the Electricity Commission and confirmed by the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation gives the Dams’ committee an almost shovel ready project which could be fast-tracked.
“In Australia we have to find more water storage. In the ‘80s when this project was stopped, there was about 4.5 megalitres of water stored per person.
“If we don’t do anything, by 2050 there will only be 2.5ML of stored water per person. That’s way below our requirements,” he said.
“So the nation, for no other reason than our population is growing, needs to build more water storages.
Mr Joyce said he had been aware of the proposal to build the Apsley River Dam for a considerable period of time.
“I know it would bring a great economic boom to the area,” he said. “It would also provide zero-emission hydro-electric power.
“It’s a good time to start discussing how we would get projects like this back onto the drawing board and back into a position where we could finance and build them.
“Because this delivers power for the State of NSW, a zero-emission outcome, the capacity for the water to make it into the Macdonald River and greater delivery from an external source into the Murray Darling Basin.
“My only problem is going to be fighting the environmentalists,” he said. “If you do what they want you will end up like Tasmania, where basically everyone is broke.”
“I have no doubt people will come screaming that this project is outrageous because you can’t have a dam and you can’t have progress.
“Well I’m ready for the fight. I want to make sure as Chairman of the Dams Committee in this nation we build dams to take us to the next step.
According to the report, the estimated cost of the Apsley River project in 1983 was $1,063 million.
Federal Member for New England Barnaby Joyce with the July 1983 report produced by the then Electricity Commission on the Apsley River Dam project.