The proposed enlargement of Wyangala Dam by WaterNSW has been referred to the Australian Government for assessment against Matters of National Environmental Significance (MNES). The referral acknowledges that the proposed action is “likely to have a significant impact, so impacts to MNES will be assessed under the EPBC Act”.
First, the referral acknowledges that the proposed action is likely to have a direct or indirect impact on nationally listed threatened species or their habitat or any threatened ecological community, concluding that this impact is significant. This submission supports this conclusion, based on the scientific evidence but points out the inadequacy of the proponent’s preliminary assessment.
Further WaterNSW prefers “that the proposed action be assessed using an accredited process” in NSW. This ‘preferred’ approach should not be followed, given the significance of this development: it is likely to have a significant impact on matters of national environmental significance. This is a national obligation and needs to be an independent process, not one where the NSW Government is assessing its own project – a clear conflict of interest. Further, the NSW assessment process is not equivalent for assessing on matters of national environmental significance, given some limitations of Part 5 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 in NSW: particular in relation to rigour, independence, public consultation, enforceability and ability to adequately assess on matters of national environmental significance.
The proposed development, an increase of 53% in the storage capacity of Wyangala Dam, is likely to have a significant impact on a range of matters of national environmental significance, particularly nationally threatened species and migratory species under the EPBC Act. Further, it will significantly degrade downstream ecosystems already in decline because of the building of the dam and diversion of water.
Recommendation: This proposed development is nationally significant and needs to be assessed by the Australian Government under the EPBC Act 1999, not through an accredited process in NSW. The Wyangala Dam Wall Raising proposal 2020/8653 should be designated a controlled action under the EPBC Act 1999 and require assessment by public inquiry.
See the full submission attached in PDF form below.