I commend the Government’s decisive action in tackling flood risk and improving safety for families in Hawkesbury. The commitment by this Government to raise the wall of the Warragamba Dam will be one of the largest infrastructure projects the Hawkesbury has ever seen. This financial year alone $58 million dollars in the New South Wales budget will fund the planning and design work necessary to complete the project. The total cost of the project is estimated to be around $690 million dollars and we will see this project through because we are a government that delivers. The reason we can deliver on projects like this one is that we have managed the New South Wales budget into a position of strength. Our prudent stewardship of the State’s finances means that we can now deliver the projects that Labor could only dream of delivering.
Back in the 1990s the Carr Labor Government well knew the pressing need to raise the dam wall, but did nothing. Since being elected to Parliament, and particularly since I have represented the electorate of Hawkesbury, the need for this project has been made clear to me by the Hawkesbury community. When the Liberal-Nationals Government was elected in 2011 we wasted no time commissioning up-to-date flood mitigation and management studies to be in a position to undertake the necessary work in the region. At the last election I made a commitment to the people of Hawkesbury that I would fight to better protect the region, their families, their homes, their farms and their livelihoods. Indeed, there is a sense of relief and genuine astonishment in Hawkesbury because after decades of inaction they can now rely on a government that delivers.
The magnitude of this project and the funding it will require are significant. That is just the dollars and cents; the practical matter will be managing the State’s finances so that we can get the job done. That is the minimum the people of New South Wales and the people who live and work the Hawkesbury-Nepean floodplain can expect from their Government. More important than the dollars and cents, is the protection this massive project will offer because the threat of floods is ever present for the people of Hawkesbury and Western Sydney. This project is about people’s lives, people’s homes and people’s jobs. The Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley is one of the most heavily developed and at-risk floodplains is Australia and it is hugely important to the New South Wales economy.
Paul Broad, the former head of Infrastructure NSW, has said that a one in 1,000 year flood in the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley could cause $8 billion dollars in damage; potentially put 43,000 residents and 9,000 employees of local businesses at risk; flood 14,000 homes above floor level and destroy 6,500 homes; disrupt transport infrastructure in Hawkesbury and the Blue Mountains; and its impact would be felt across the Australian economy. The risk of flooding is felt deeply in Hawkesbury because it is ingrained in the history of the region. Since 1799 there have been 120 floods over six metres. There are far too many stories of loss of life from these floods, but I will draw the attention of the House to one story. In 1867 with floodwaters rising at Cornwallis two brothers—local farmers by the name of Eather—along with their wives and their 10 children, were forced by rising waters on to the rooves of their houses. Despite attempts to rescue them, all but the two brothers and one son survived. This story was brought to my attention by John Miller, a Hawkesbury local who has campaigned tirelessly for action on raising the wall of the Warragamba Dam.
I acknowledge Mr Miller’s efforts and the efforts of others such as Les Sheather and the countless locals who have persisted in campaigning for action on raising the dam wall. I congratulate my predecessor in the electorate of Hawkesbury, Ray Williams, on his advocacy and on moving this motion. I also thank Kevin Conolly, the member for Riverstone, on his advocacy. I also congratulate and thank the Treasurer and the Premier on acknowledging the need for action on flood mitigation in Hawkesbury and Western Sydney and on taking action that will make a real difference to people’s lives in my electorate. The tragedy that befell the Eather families—and countless other families—should never be forgotten. But remembering the lost is not enough. We must act to protect families in Hawkesbury and Western Sydney from further loss and tragedy in the future. For as long as I am a member in this place I will be committed to fighting for this dam wall. The people of Hawkesbury can rely on this Government to deliver on its commitment to raise the dam wall.