Tillegra project officially dead in the water

HUNTER Water has abandoned for good any plans to resurrect the controversial Tillegra Dam project as an option for drought-proofing the region’s water supply.

It comes as the organisation calls for tenders to develop a long-term strategy for land in the Williams Valley near Dungog it acquired for the failed dam proposal.

Hunter Water managing director Kim Wood has emphatically ruled out revisiting the Tillegra project.

‘‘It’s probably been tip-toed around but there is no question it is over,’’ he said yesterday.

‘‘This government nor this organisation has any appetite [to build it] and we fully understand the community has spoken on the matter.’’

But long-standing opponents seized on these developments as evidence the government was intending to build the mooted nearby Native Dog Creek Dam as an alternative to Tillegra.

Labor announced the $477 million Tillegra project had been dumped in late 2010 after an independent assessment found it was not in the public interest. Hunter Water has since been under mounting pressure to offload the land.

Mr Wood’s comments put to rest any lingering hopes that supporters of the project had of resurrecting it.

Documents tabled in Parliament this year show the Native Dog Creek option, near the original dam site, would have about 60 per cent of the storage capacity of Tillegra.

‘‘A Hunter Water-driven land use strategy will inevitably focus on building the Tillegra Mark 2 option – Native Dog Creek – and maximising the sale prices of whatever land they no longer want,’’ Greens MP John Kaye said yesterday.

Finance and Services Minister Greg Pearce did not comment on the project yesterday, but he has previously said Native Dog Creek was only one option under consideration as part of the development for a long-term water plan for the region.

The government has committed to an extensive community consultation process as part the plan’s development.

Mr Wood said stakeholder groups, the community, Dungog Council and the government would be consulted about the development of the post-Tillegra land use strategy.

This would occur before any decision was made regarding how or when to sell the 6000 hectares, or 46 properties, acquired for Tillegra.

‘‘The community can expect that the options recommended will ensure best value of the land is achieved for the benefit of the local economy and ultimately Hunter Water’s customers,’’ Mr Wood said.

‘‘Ensuring that both the community and customers benefit from this detailed review of Hunter Water’s land holdings is a number one priority for Hunter Water.’’

Eleven former land-owners who had first right of refusal clauses on their properties have been contacted.

Two have declined the buy-back, six have deferred making a decision, and three are negotiating with Hunter Water.

It is expected the development of the strategy would take about two years to complete.

But Dr Kaye, who campaigned against Tillegra Dam, said the process lacked credibility.

Dungog resident and No Tillegra Dam Group chairwoman Carol Pasenow was also critical of the process.

“Our group finds it outrageous that the NSW Government has allowed Hunter Water to get back into the driving seat and control when and how the land will be sold.’’

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