Kangaroo Valley Community Association (KVCA),
Kangaroo Valley Tourist Association (KVTA)
and Kangaroo Valley Environment Group (KVEG)

of a public meeting held at 7pm
on 16 August 2005 at Kangaroo Valley Hall


Elizabeth George (President of KVCA and Chair of the meeting) welcomed the many residents and visitors (approximately 200) present.

Invited guests present included Shelley Hancock, State MP for South Coast, Shoalhaven Mayor Greg Watson and Councillors John Anderson, Richard Bates, John Finkernagel, Paul Green and Gareth Ward and (colleagues with an interest in the health of Shoalhaven River) Roger Apperley, Terry Barratt, Maria Duvollet, Patricia Mason, John Tate and Robert Thorne.

Apologies had been received from Joanna Gash, Federal MP for Gilmore, Malcolm Turnbull, Federal MP for Wentworth, Peta Seaton, State MP for Southern Highlands, Matt Brown, State MP for Kiama, Adrian Piccoli, Shadow Minister for Natural Resources, Sylvia Hale MLC, Lee Rhiannon MLC, Councillor Jack Kerr, Leigh Martin, TEC, John Gould, Shoalhaven Water, and Daniela Heubusch, Shoalhaven Council Flood Engineer.


Elizabeth explained that Sydney Catchment Authority (SCA) had started pumping down four metres below the top of Tallowa Dam in April 2003. Sydney's water restrictions were not introduced until October 2003. Having stated there was no room to move, in response to pressure from LYTF SCA had changed the pumping regime first to 3.8m and then to 3m.

KVCA and subsequently LYTF had sought changes to the SCA licences, pumping down to a maximum of 1m, a plan of management to protect Lake Yarrunga, water restrictions in Sydney before pumping begins, and public access to water test results and water transfers.

At the ALP State Conference on 11 June 2005 then-Premier Carr announced that Tallowa Dam wall was to be raised to transfer more water to Sydney. On 7 July Minister Debus announced that work would start in November 2006 and be completed in 2008. The project was declared "critical infrastructure" under a recent amendment to the Environmental Planning Assessment Act, with the consequence that no environmental impact study was required. The EIS process is at the discretion of the Minister. A Reference Group was established by the Minister for the Environment, to provide a forum for "community consultation".

On 22 June 2005 SCA acknowledged that it was not aware that parts of Kangaroo Valley village had been inundated during floods, nor of Council's flood study. On 30 June SCA finally agreed that raising the dam by 5m would raise water at Hampden Bridge by 3.3m, not 1m as previously stated by them.

The Community Reference Group now comprises one representative from each of KVCA, KVTA, KVEG, Shoalhaven River Alliance, Riverwatch, Southern Bass (fishing club), Nowra Aboriginal Land Council, Shoalhaven City Council, Shoalhaven Water and Southern Rivers Catchment Management Authority, and approximately seven bureaucrats.

At the inaugural meeting of the Reference Group, on 25 July, the Kangaroo Valley representatives demanded that the onus of proof be on the Government that the valley would not be adversely affected, a viable Lake Yarrunga, a plan of management for the lake, a healthy Shoalhaven River, full environmental impact studies, answers to all our (18) questions, that the facilities on the lake and river be preserved, no more "progressive revelation", better demand management in Sydney, and recycling of Sydney effluent and grey water.

As to the Government's promise of consultation, KVCA and (later) LYTF had been meeting with government agencies for 18 months. It had been largely one-way communication, with us giving them information and raising issues. The first meeting of the Reference Group produced more of the same. There had been very little information or assurances from the government side. However, information has been promised for the second meeting of the Reference Group, and Minister Debus has agreed to "meet with people in the Kangaroo Valley later this year when some key studies are complete".

Unanswered questions include:

  • Will there be protection from flooding for the village and houses around the lake?
  • Will the Government pay compensation for property damage, or for businesses adversely affected?
  • Will there be protection for Hampden Bridge?
  • Will the Government resume land, revise building setbacks, or pay compensation for loss of value, in the case of flood-affected properties?
  • How will the facilities at Tallowa Dam, Bendeela and Hampden Bridge be replaced?
  • Has the RTA been consulted in relation to flooding of Moss Vale Road?
  • Has Council's flood study been considered?

Photographic evidence

Glyn Stones (Treasurer of KVTA) then displayed a number of photographs which clearly illustrated the effects on Lake Yarrunga of SCA's pumping during the drought and - in marked contrast but equally damaging - the flooding of Kangaroo Valley in 1999 and earlier floods.

Glyn said the economy of Kangaroo Valley was dependent on tourism. 18,000 people a year come to the valley just for canoeing. All camping spots will be either comletely or partially under water during floods if the Government's decision is implemented.

What is the Government planning to do?

Peter Stanton (President of KVEG) said the Government's stated objectives were:

  • Increase "sustainable yield" from Shoalhaven by 110 billion litres
  • Transfer more water in "high flow"
  • Improve environmental flow for the Shoalhaven
  • Improve environmental health of Wollondilly and Nepean by reducing run of river transfers

The eventual "sustainable yield" of 185 billion litres could mean that, in some years, Sydney takes 400 billion litres - three-quarters of its total consumption.

However, just how they planned to harvest more water in high flow had been revealed only a few months ago - by raising the wall of Tallowa dam. How high were they planning to raise it? In answer to this question, LYTF had beenn told that the Government was considering all options. It seemed to be widely assumed it would be raised by 5m, but an increase of as much as 10m was technically feasible, and had not been discounted by SCA.

Peter gave a Powerpoint presentation which graphically illustrated the way SCA use Lake Yarrunga and the possible effects of various options which the Government might adopt to increase the "sustainable yield" from the Shoalhaven. It was evident that all of the available options for raising the dam would, in varying degrees, result in damage to Kangaroo Valley. The favoured option, and the most alarming, appears to be the use of "toppling gates" - disposable concrete gates that will "topple" in a flood to reduce excessive build-up of flood waters behind the dam.

The motion

Keith Learn (a member of KVCA, KVTA and KVEG) stressed that neither KVCA nor LYTF had ever said we should not share the water in our catchment. For two years they had been negotiating for an equitable sharing of resources.

The report "Water and Sydney's Future" was developed over three years with input from 40 top hydrologists, biologists, planners, agencies etc. Of the 15 options suggested not one included the raising of Tallowa Dam. The chosen option was to pump from Tallowa Dam at high flow only. However, as the drought lengthened, panic set in, the turf wars started, the expertise was discounted and the report discarded.

Not satisfied with 85 billion litres, the Government now wants to take 185 billion litres of water per annum - water the Shoalhaven River will never see again.

Keith then considered the effects of a 5m increase in dam height on:

  • Lower Shoalhaven - the loss of 180bn litres of water and potential for bigger floods in Nowra when the 5m gates on the dam are opened during floods. Surely Council should be supporting Kangaroo Valley's case against raising the dam?

  • Lake Yarrunga - a much larger volume of stored water and surface area, backing up Upper Shoalhaven River, Yarrunga Creek, Bundanoon Creek, and even up Kangaroo River and Barrengarry Creek. It would take an estimated minimum of 30 days continual pumping to restore the lake to its present full level. All the best camping sites and many mature trees would be lost. Who knows how much wildlife would be lost or dislocated?

  • Kangaroo Valley above the bridge - a 5m rise at Tallowa Dam will result in a 3.3m rise at Hampden Bridge. It is estimated that the new, albeit temporary, lake will back up to the tennis courts in the Kangaroo River and half way to Upper River Road in Barrengarry Creek. The potential for flooding was indeed recognised when the dam was built. "Shoalhaven Scheme, Interim Design Report", dated June 1976 (after the dam was built), states: "The final arrangement adopted for Tallowa Dam was largely dictated by the need to provide a spillway capable of passing the probable maximum flood. The high tailwater (RL 158 ft maxium), the need to minimise damage to the river channel downstream and the desirability of keeping flood levels at Bendeela and the Hampden Bridge as low as practicable all favoured the use of a gravity dam for the full width of the valley floor with a spillway approximately as wide as the natural river channel." The spillway was then built uncontrolled at an evelation of 56.3 metres.

The issues raised, and the questions put, by LYTF would have been addressed in any community consultation or environmental impact study. Without either, the Government has made a poorly informed decision.

Keith then put the motion that:

"Kangaroo Valley residents totally oppose ANY increase in the dam height because of the damage it could do to this community"

Questions and comments

The Chair then invited questions and comments from the floor. They included the following:

  • John Skidmore read a message from Peta Seaton MP confirming that the Liberal/Nationals Coalition opposed raising Tallowa Dam and was committed to a long-term large-scale water re-use and recycling strategy for Sydney. She strongly supported the motion.
  • Councillor Gareth Ward strongly supported the motion, adding that Sydney should recycle its water.
  • Has any consideration been given to the traffic effects of heavy construction vehicles?
  • What will happen to Aboriginal artefacts and historic sites in floods?
  • Has the SMEC flood study [for Council] been extended to take raising the dam into account? The Mayor said he believed it had.
  • Shoalhaven Council should not lift water restrictions during a shortage since it sends the wrong message to visitors from Sydney. Councillor Anderson commented that some councillors had voted against lifting restrictions.
  • What is Council's view on raising the dam? The Mayor responded that Council had not yet considered the matter; it was waiting to see what comes out of the Reference Group.

A few amendments to the motion were moved and voted on. As a result the following motion was overwhelmingly carried:

"Kangaroo Valley residents totally oppose any increase in the dam height because of the environmental, social, Aboriginal cultural heritage and economic damage it would do to this community and the lower Shoalhaven."

Future action

Elizabeth announced that a campaign would immediately begin to reverse the Government's decision. Each of KVCA, KVTA and KVEG had agreed to donate $500 to the campaign, and each would nominate two members to a campaign committee. She said it was important that the campaign be a united community effort. Other community groups that wished to be involved and were prepared to share the campaign expenses were invited to nominate representatives to the committee. Offers from individuals of practical support for the campaign's activities and/or donations to the campaign funds would be welcomed.

Petitions addressed both to the Government and Council were being circulated for signature.

Supporters of the campaign were strongly encouraged to write individual letters to Government, Council and other relevant people. A list of contacts, and some draft letters, would be posted on LYTF's website as soon as possible.

The meeting closed at 9pm.

[amended 23 August 2005]

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