Probe hears of support trade
Traditional landowners claim they have been offered jobs if they support raising the Warragamba Dam Wall.
The NSW Government wants to raise the wall by at least 14 metres, but there is concern that the project will irreparably damage up to 1,300 hectares of world heritage listed Blue Mountains bushland and Aboriginal cultural sites in the event of a major flood.
Gundungurra traditional owner Kazan Brown has told a parliamentary inquiry into the dam wall raising plans that a WaterNSW employee and a private stakeholder had suggested jobs and traditional land access could be traded for support for the project.
“[They said] to us that if the project was to proceed they would give our people access to areas of the catchment that we are currently locked out of,” Ms Brown told the Inquiry into the Proposal to Raise the Warragamba Dam Wall.
“They even went on to say at this meeting we would be given employment if we were to agree with the project proceeding.”
Independent MP and committee member Justin Field said it was a deeply concerning claim.
“The evidence that access to traditional lands or jobs was held out to encourage support for the project warrants an immediate investigation by WaterNSW and the minister responsible,” he said.
WaterNSW says it is investigating the claim that inducements were offered to garner support for the project.
“WaterNSW takes these allegations seriously,” it said in a statement.
“In response to these allegations, WaterNSW will be conducting an internal investigation. No further comment will be made while the investigation is underway.”
A spokesperson told reporters that WaterNSW financially reimbursed Aboriginal parties for an Environmental Impact Statement in line with standard procedures.