A call for Penrith Council to formally support raising the Warragamba Dam wall before the release of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) has ignited tensions among Councillors.
Councillor Marcus Cornish was criticised for tabling the Notice of Motion during Monday night’s Ordinary Meeting after Council resolved in August 2019 that it was premature to take a stance prior to seeing the EIS.
But Cr Cornish said time is of the essence to safeguard lives and property.
“The current situation is a sad confirmation that the dam needs to be raised,” he said.
“The dam wall being raised affects Penrith and it affects the Hawkesbury, it doesn’t affect many other areas, so this is something we need to have a position on.”
Fellow Independent Kevin Crameri, who seconded the motion, said the region was in a “delicate position” and a downfall now, rather than steady rain, could spell disaster.
“If we get four inches over the catchment now, we’ll have an 1861 event, that’s when you’ll find out what the problems are for not raising the wall,” he said.
After questions were raised about the procedural correctness of the motion – which kicked off a string of unusual and testy ‘point of order’ interjections – it was finally put to a vote.
Shortly after, Mayor Karen McKeown declared it lost, with only Councillors Cornish and Crameri voting in support.
During General Business, Deputy Mayor Tricia Hitchen called for a Council briefing as soon as the EIS is released.
“I myself am in favour of raising the dam wall and I know a great many of my Councillor colleagues are as well,” she said.
“But until we have all the information, it’s not appropriate that this Council makes a decision.
“And let’s face it, there’s no urgency in making this decision in the next month or so because it will still take a long time before the dam wall can be raised.”
WaterNSW is currently preparing the Warragamba wall-raising EIS on behalf of the NSW Government.
The current anticipated exhibition of the EIS is in the second half of 2021.
Alena Higgins is the Weekender’s Senior News Reporter, primarily covering courts and Council issues.