Two years on, Wilcannia still waiting for weir report

MEDIA RELEASE – 12 October 2016

Almost two years after it commissioned a feasibility study into building a new weir for Wilcannia, the government still has not released a report. NSW Greens water spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham said today that once again the people of Wilcannia are put last by the government.

“This is turning into a farce. They’ve spent two years on a report and won’t even release it.  They could have built a new downstream weir in that time to help revive the town of Wilcannia,” said Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham.

“The Greens are concerned that the bean counters will find a reason to dud the people of Wilcannia yet again on a cost/benefit analysis.

“Around 80% of Wilcannia residents are of Aboriginal decent.  It has one of the lowest life expectancy and highest social disadvantage in Australia.  To deny the people of Wilcannia basic infrastructure and some secure water in the river as it flows through town would be a shameful decision.

“This government is prepared to spend half a billion on a pipeline from Wentworth to Broken Hill, which it admits is primarily about benefiting wealth northern irrigators, yet it won’t build a new weir for Wilcannia.”
Photos of Jeremy Buckingham at William Bates at Wilcannia weir available here.

Watch Question & Answer on YouTube here.     Download footage here.

HANSARD: WILCANNIA WEIR

11 October 2016

Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM ( 16:39 ): My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Primary Industries, and Minister for Lands and Water. Two years ago, on 30 October 2014, the New South Wales Government committed $189,000 to a feasibility study into an upgrade of the Wilcannia Weir and associated works. When will the Government release this feasibility report? When will the Minister build a new downstream weir for the people of Wilcannia?

The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, and Minister for Lands and Water) ( 16:40 ): I thank the member for his question. It is an important issue for the people of Wilcannia. I note that the member opposite has jumped straight to the conclusion that he wants the downstream weir completed. However, there are alternatives. Some say that we should be looking at upgrading the existing weir; some are talking about a downstream component; others are saying that we could do both.

Mr Jeremy Buckingham: Two weirs?

The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: There are some who have said that we could build two weirs. One could be addressing the water quality issue and the other could be used for amenity purposes. But the member is not aware of that, he is not aware that there are many variances associated with such projects. The New South Wales Government has engaged consultants to complete a feasibility investigation for a new weir at Wilcannia. The investigation includes a business case and associated scoping study. Department of Primary Industries—Water has received the feasibility investigation reports, including a scoping study and a business case for the Wilcannia Weir.

While there has been criticism of the time taken in completing the study, it must be understood that there are a number of considerations and detailed analyses required. Once the final reports have been reviewed, they will be considered by the Government and future stages of the project can then be discussed. We need to assess the feasibility study and give due consideration to the findings before we know what the next steps are. These reports are important steps to inform the Government about the feasibility and anticipated costs of a possible replacement weir so that the matter can be considered.

Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM ( 16:42 ): I ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister elucidate his answer in relation to the feasibility study? Was a cost benefit analysis conducted within that feasibility study? Can he tell the House what that cost benefit analysis may or may not have said?

The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, and Minister for Lands and Water) ( 16:42 ): In answer to the first question I spoke about scoping studies and business cases; that has already been covered.

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