Fri. Jun 14th, 2024

An animated Barnaby Joyce has said that the cancelled New Dungowan Dam project “is back on the table” if the Coalition is re-elected.

Speaking at a press conference at the opening of the Quipolly Water Project alongside State Member for Tamworth and former NSW Water Minister Kevin Anderson on Tuesday, the former Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce praised the new facility, and reminisced about his time living in Werris Creek.

“One of the big detractors of there was the quality of water,” Joyce said, “It was pretty ordinary.”

Joyce went on to state that dams form an important bulwark against China by helping foster a strong economy.

“We’ve gotta build more,” Joyce said, “We’ve got China breathing down our neck, and it’s no good to say we’ve got AUKUS and everything’s gonna be fine – you actually have to have a really strong economy.”

Joyce stated that “Water is wealth and a dam is a bank”, and listed off the various water projects conducted or attempted during his time in government, ranging from the Chaffey Dam extension and Walcha’s off-stream storage, as well as lamenting projects cancelled by the Labor government.

“We wanted Hell’s Gate dam, but of course the Labor party didn’t want that, we wanted Dungowan Dam, they didn’t want that.”

He was particularly passionate about restarting the New Dungowan Dam.

“When we negotiated (Net Zero by) 2050, we got about $32 billion worth of infrastructure,” Joyce said, “of which Dungowan Dam was implicit in that.”

“I would presume that if the Coalition has a victory in the future, that dam and that deal is back on the table.”

The former Deputy Prime Minister had spent years in government championing the New Dungowan Dam project, as well as others outside his electorate like Hell’s Gate and Urannah in Queensland.

The New Dungowan Dam was labelled as “unviable” in a 2020 Productivity Commission report, with a cited cost-benefit ratio of only 1.06 – which was based on an initial cost of $449.2 million, before the estimated cost for the project blew out to $1.275 billion, and noted a lack of exploration of other water security measures.

Joyce said that the need for New Dungowan Dam would be driven by the growth of Tamworth, drawing parallels with the growth of Toowoomba in Queensland.

“I remember when Toowoomba had 60,000 people when I went up to Queensland. When I left, it had 140,000.”

“We’re going to need that water infrastructure,” Joyce said.

“I know that as an interim measure you may be able to use recycled water, but you can only recycle the water that’s there – you can’t conjure it out of the aether.”

“All these laws – you can’t clear trees, the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, this environmental issue, that environmental issue, that approval, this approval – do you know what they’re saying?” a spirited Joyce asked.

“They’re showing a disapproval for regional areas.”

Anderson was quick to agree with Joyce.

“Labor canned the dam purely because they thought we weren’t worth it. They thought the business cost ratio didn’t stack up,” Anderson said.

“We weren’t worth spending the money on. But they’re happy to spend billions and trillions of dollars in the city.”

Both the Federal Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek, and the NSW Minister for Water Rose Jackson were contacted for comment, but did not reply.

Top image: Barnaby Joyce speaking at the opening of the Quipolly Water Project. (Tom Plevey)

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