[ Canberra Times ]

Tumut poised for new hydro boom

Date: March 20 2017


Michael Gorey

 Tumut real estate agent Lorraine Wysman has sold nearly as many properties in Talbingo since Thursday as she normally does in a year.

Speculators began targeting the tiny southern NSW town after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a potential $2 billion expansion of the Snowy Hydro scheme.

Ms Wysman, who is president of the local business chamber, said she had sold five properties in the village of 241 people since the announcement.

"I've got staff who live there and they can't believe it," she said.

"We had 10 properties and three blocks of land for sale, so it's really put a big chink in our listings.

"One particular property sold without an inspection, another chap came from Sydney on Saturday and bought, and went home again.

"Obviously they're speculating, but Talbingo is beautiful anyway, all year round.

"We can't believe the number of phone calls and think we'll probably sell another couple of properties this week."

Ms Wysman said there was a buzz around the community, which saw potential from employment and business opportunities associated with the development.

She said the chamber would seek talks with Snowy Hydro about local jobs and procurement.

Snowy Hydro hasn't decided the final location of its pumped storage project, but a spokesman confirmed the link from Tantangara to Talbingo was frontrunner.

"The feasibility study will enable clearer requirements to determined, however we expect that hundreds of jobs could be created during construction," she said.

"There will be the need to draw in a range of expertise for the study and during construction."

Former Tumut deputy mayor Scott Stevenson said the town was ready and able to handle an influx of workers.

"Any investment in our region is great and if it's green energy it's even better," he said.

"A lot of local businesses should get work out of it. There are engineering skills in the area and civil contractors who will hopefully benefit. It's fantastic."

Mr Stevenson said Tumut would be an ideal hub for the development.

"We've got a billion dollar mill; we handled that when it was under construction," he said.

"When it's shut down for maintenance there can be up to a thousand workers come to town. Tumut has no problems handling that."

State MP for Wagga Wagga Daryl Maguire said the hydro expansion would be an iconic national project.

"It's a winner in every respect," he said.

"For every dollar invested there's a multiplier of 2.8 for the region. They're estimating up to 500 jobs could be created.

"If that's direct jobs you could easily triple the economic benefit."

Retired electrical engineer and former Snowy Hydro worker Cris Piper, 65, from Adelong blames politicians for Australia's energy malaise, but welcomed the proposed development.

"The only reason it didn't go ahead in the 60s or 70s was the cost," he said.

"Governments at the time weren't interested and it got shelved on two occasions.

"It will work, but it's not the answer to the whole problem.

"The answer to the whole show is they've got to get some balls and put some regulation in."