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Water plan’s delay invites suspicion

Monday, 11th April, 2016

By Andrew Robertson

The State Government should make public the detailed business cases now being considered for the city’s long-term water supply, Labor says.

The government earlier this month said the business case for all three options had been finalised by the Department of Primary Industries.

A spokesman for Water Minister, Niall Blair, said Infrastructure NSW was now reviewing each proposal and a decision was expected around the middle of the year.

That timeline surprised Mayor Wincen Cuy, who said he had expected the government to make a decision on the city’s supply sometime this month, or by mid May at the latest.

He said a decision should be made as soon as possible to give the city stability and residents peace of mind.

Labor MLC for Barwon, Daniel Mookhey, said there was no reason why the business case for each of the options should not be made public.  

He said it was common practice for details of Sydney infrastructure projects - like the $17 billion WestConnex - to be released “so why should one standard apply in the city and another in the country?”

“It’s hard to pick which of the Baird Government’s sins is worse: the fact that the Government’s business case is late, or the fact that it is secret,” Mr Mookhey said.

“While the government is having a conversation amongst itself, the people I’ve met in Broken Hill are thirsting for a sign that the Sydney Liberal Government, and their National Party supporters, understand how urgent Broken Hill’s water crisis is.

“One act the government could do today is to make the Department of Primary Industries business case public.” 

The business cases outline in detail the pros and cons associated with each of the three options which were shortlisted by the government last year. 

Two pipeline proposals that would see the city supplied with water from the Murray River are being considered, as is supplementing surface water at the Menindee Lakes with groundwater during times of emergency. 

The government says it has set aside up to $500 million for the project.

Mr Mookhey said another way the government could show its support was to pledge its full cooperation with the Upper House inquiry Labor recently established.

The inquiry will examine the crisis in the Menindee Lakes, as well as many of the suggestions being floated by lake residents and irrigators - upstream and downstream.

“By following these sensible suggestions, the government would demonstrate that it’s neither in denial about Broken Hill’s water shortage, or dawdling about doing something about it.”

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