The proposal for a new 90,000-megalitre dam at Needles Gap has come under focus once again with the state member for Orange, Andrew Gee bluntly quashing a newspaper report, quoting federal MP John Cobb, which links it with the possible sell- off of the state’s electricity poles and wires.
The report appeared in Orange’s Central Western Daily last Thursday along with comments by Mr Cobb, regarding the project’s funding.
It included a section dealing with the state government’s announcement that it would fund a feasibility study of the scheme and quoted John Cobb as saying: “Andrew Stoner had set aside not only money for the scoping study and in-depth study but he triggered the rest of it with the sale of the poles and wires.”
The CWD continued, without directly quoting Mr Cobb: “The cost of the project is an estimated $150 million for the initial construction and the announcement was made about the same time as the state government said it would sell off 49 percent of its electricity infrastructure.” Andrew Gee has described the comments linking the dam with the electricity privatisation proposal as “incorrect and inaccurate.”
“If a new dam is to be built in the Central West … funds will be allocated from the Water Security for Regions program. There is ample cash in the fund to cover the cost of any new dam.”
Mr Gee’s retort underscores the state government’s sensitivity over stiff opposition to the proposed electricity sell-off, particularly as the issue may well become a key election issue next year. The dam itself has also come under fire from environmentalists as its proposed site near the Belubula River lies over the highly protected Cliefden Caves which are said to outrank Jenolan as a natural treasure.
The Phoenix has sought a response from John Cobb.
By Derek Maitland