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Coalition readies $30b plan for 100 dams: report

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Raising the height of Warragamba Dam would cost $500m.

Raising the height of Warragamba Dam would cost $500m. Photo: Simon Bennett

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is reportedly considering building as many as 100 dams across the country as part of a plan to prevent floods, fuel power stations and irrigate food bowls.

News Limited on Thursday reported that the leaked draft policy discussion paper included a $500 million plan to raise Warragamba Dam, which now provides about 80 per cent of Sydney's water.

A 1995 environmental impact study on Warragamba recommended raising the dam's height by 23 metres to reduce the threat of flooding in the Nepean-Hawkesbury River region. A repeat of the record 1867 flood would inundate about 7,800 homes and force the evacuation of tens of thousands of people, the report said at the time.

The total cost of the coalition's water management plan, if all projects were approved, would be $30 billion. They include new dams for the Hunter Valley and along the Lachlan River in NSW, News reported.

Another of the proposals is to pipe water 1500 kilometres from the Kimberley to Perth.

In a foreword to the document, shadow finance minister Andrew Robb reportedly wrote: ‘‘A coalition government will not support the construction of dams for the simple sake of building dams, however, it will back projects that bring demonstrable community benefits.

‘‘Many opportunities to pursue projects that would enhance water security, help to mitigate floods, provide hydro power, and perhaps most importantly to grow our economic prosperity while being sensitive to the environment, have been missed.’’

No specific plan

The federal coalition, meanwhile, has sought to distance itself from the leaked report, saying it has no specific plan yet to build 100 dams across Australia.

But the idea does show a long-term vision for alternative government, its environment spokesman Greg Hunt says.

The idea, outlined in a leaked draft policy discussion paper, would cost around $30 billion if the projects were approved and implemented.

Most however would be constructed in northern Australia, and would be used to irrigate dry zones and more than double Australia’s food production.

Mr Hunt says the coalition has no direct proposal for the dams, but forward thinking is necessary for anyone wanting to run government.

‘‘You can’t just make it up as you go along,’’ he told ABC Radio on Thursday.

The coalition was ‘‘unashamed’’ about having plans to tackle floods and build Australia into one of the world’s great food bowls.

‘‘What we have set out is a vision for northern Australia, and linked to that is a vision for new dams,’’ he said.

‘‘We are proud of establishing a vision, but these are draft papers.’’

A coalition taskforce will update its ideas and formally release them as the year progresses, he said.

AAP

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