Airport sparks farm dam conundrum

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Farm dams could be in the firing line amid the delivery of the Western Sydney Airport, but none that continue to be used for agriculture, the State’s planning department says.

During its recent submission on the Aerotropolis Precinct Plans, Penrith Council flagged the need for further assessment of farm dams.

“Further assessment should be completed to clarify information determining whether farm dams should be retained or removed,” it states.

“The impact of dams on the operation of the airport needs to be considered carefully, such as attraction of wildlife and birds, that increase the chances of adverse impacts such as bird strike.”

The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) estimates more than 500 dams currently exist across the Aerotropolis.

However, a DPIE spokesman said those used for agricultural purposes will remain.

A map showing the Initial Precincts associated with the new airport.

“There is no intention for dam removal on properties that continue to be used for agricultural purposes,” he said.

“Potential removal of dams is considered as part of strategic urban planning for when land is urbanised.”

Given many farm dams were not designed to be located near residential developments, many will need to be re-designed or rebuilt to address dam stability, safe access, water quality, algal bloom risk, water level fluctuations and wildlife attraction.

According to the DPIE, as the initial precincts develop over time, some farm dams may be removed and others kept, depending on whether they are re-designed and re-purposed to address these issues.

Council also recommends the Western Sydney Planning Partnership address the management strategy Sydney Water is currently preparing on the impacts of development in the area, including the importation of fill into the floodplain.

The DPIE referred the Weekender’s questions on how removing farm dams could impact flood risks and ecological systems within the Aerotropolis to Sydney Water.

However, Sydney Water said it was up to the DPIE to comment on the issue.

A spokesman for the NSW Farmers Association said farm dams are critical for farming systems and an important resource for wildlife.

“Farm dams are critical for farming systems for watering of livestock and irrigation of crops,” he said.

“Most importantly, farm dams are a critical part of any farm drought proofing strategy and an important resource for wildlife.”

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