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NSW Government pledges $87 million for water infrastructure as drought bites

Patrick Bell, Tuesday November 26, 2019 - 16:48 EDT
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Deputy Premier John Barilaro (centre) says the Government is prepared to sacrifice a budget surplus to ensure water. - ABC

The NSW Government has used a tour of the state's west to announce more funding for water infrastructure amid the ongoing drought.

Deputy Premier John Barilaro and Water Minister Melinda Pavey visited Dubbo today to commit $87 million for water infrastructure measures across the state.

Ms Pavey identified projects such as a stormwater harvesting scheme in Bathurst and an upgrade to the Albert Priest Channel between Nyngan and Cobar among more than 30 projects the Government would help fund.

She said the State Government had a responsibility to the more than 90 local councils outside the Sydney basin.

"It's a hand up to them, to be able to make sure that their towns and their communities don't run out of water," she said.

"All of these are vital towns to our economy as a state — important agricultural regions, important mining regions."

Mr Barilaro said he was prepared to sacrifice the Government's budget surplus if towns were at risk of running out of water.

"Even if we've got to tip into deficit at some point in the future to shore up regional and rural NSW during this drought, I actually have no issue with that," he said.

Dubbo in danger zone

Ms Pavey pointed to Dubbo as one of the regional centres most at risk of running out of water.

Water NSW has said the Macquarie River could stop flowing by May 2020 without any further inflows to Burrendong Dam.

The NSW Government earlier this year gave $30 million to the Dubbo Regional Council to boost its water security.

Nationals Member for Dubbo Dugald Saunders said a range of options was being pursued with that money, not just digging for new bores.

"Part of that is around reuse of effluent, which is a fantastic step forward, and this is what our community wants to see," he said.

"If I walk down the street in Dubbo, the number one thing people are still talking about is drought."

Mr Saunders won the seat of Dubbo at the March election in a close contest against the city's former mayor, Mathew Dickerson.

Mr Dickerson said the funding package was welcome but should have come before the region was in the grip of severe drought.

"It seems like [they're] jumping from one emergency to the next emergency and just making decisions on the run," he said.

"More than likely we'll be through this drought, we'll have some rain, and they'll be cutting the ribbon on this great infrastructure they're building."


© ABC 2019

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