A local politician has used a community town hall meeting on flood impact to urge the NSW government to raise the wall at Warragamba Dam, saying those who oppose it are “pontificating”.
“Those who tend to oppose raising Warragamba Dam, in my opinion, tend to do it from a place of relative safety, high and dry and out of harm’s way, and pontificate to my community, who physically bear that existential risk every year,” Nathan Zamprogno from the Hawkesbury City Council said on Thursday night.
The meeting, for members of the Hawkesbury-Nepean community, is part of the NSW government’s independent inquiry into the catastrophic flooding in February and March.
Mr Zamprogno said he was sensitive to issues of opponents to raising the wall, including the protection of Indigenous sites and native species.
“I guess I wish that we conducted that analysis in a more compassionate way to the people whose life and property are at the greatest risk,” he said.
“I also wish that the state government would do a better job of countering various misinformation.”
Mr Zamprogno said opposition to raising the wall was not to do with the safety of Sydney’s drinking water.
“It is not about sterilising the land to permit unfettered development on the floodplain,” he said.
“It is about improving the safety of the community that I represent.
“I really wish that the government would commit to this because if they let this opportunity pass, multiple generations will slip by, and a potentially really bad flood will visit us.
“I don’t like to be the Cassandra in the room, but I don’t want to have that on my conscience.
“So I’m going to advocate for flood mitigation to my last breath.”
Mr Zamprogno said evidence showed that in the event of a one-in-100-year flood, some 4000 houses would be protected from flood.
Resident Sophie Devine disagreed with the views of the councillor, saying she attended a recent speech opposing raising the dam wall that received a standing ovation.
“If council member (Zamprogno) is correct in saying that the dam wall raising has got nothing to do with Sydney’s drinking water, we don’t understand why flood mitigation cannot take place right now,” Ms Devine said.
She said many residents wanted 14 metres of air space added to Warragamba through drainage.
“(It is important) considering that we are in a La Nina still and there are further weather projections for the rest of the year that say that the east coast of Australia will be possibly inundated with massive amounts of water,” Ms Devine said.
Another community meeting was held in Mullumbimby earlier this month, with locals telling of being hit by multiple landslides that destroyed powerlines, roads and other infrastructure.
Another community meeting will take place on Friday to hear from community members around the Clarence River.