Plans to raise the Warragamba Dam wall have been shelved after the newly-elected NSW Government decided not to move ahead with the project – a decision applauded by the National Trust, as the consequences of raising the dam wall would have caused dire environmental and heritage concerns for the Greater Blue Mountains Area.
The Warragamba Dam is a heritage-listed dam in NSW’s Blue Mountains, Gundungurra country, and is one of the largest domestic water supply dams in the world. After the NSW Government passed legislation in 2018 to allow the raising of the dam wall, there has been vigorous opposition to the proposal due to the threat of flooding the Blue Mountains’ wild rivers.
The National Trust has long fought for the conservation of the Blue Mountains region, having listed the Jamison & Kedumba Valley Landscape Conservation Area and the Kanimbla & Megalong Valley Landscape Conservation Area since the 1970s.
The Greater Blue Mountains Area is one of only 12 UNESCO World Heritage listed ‘natural’ sites in Australia, and features an exceptional range of structural and ecological diversity. Its untouched bushland contains significant representation of the evolution of Australia’s native ecosystems, including exceptionally rare items such as the Wollemi Pine, one of the world’s oldest surviving species of trees.
The proposed raising of the Warragamba Dam wall would have had severe consequences on this pristine environment. The water systems of the Greater Blue Mountains Area would be significantly raised, flooding the habitats of many rare and endangered species of both flora and fauna. This would damage the ecosystems not only along the riverbanks, but further afield, forever changing the biodiversity and habitats of the National Park and surrounds.
This flooding would also have significant impact upon the very many important Aboriginal sites, artefacts, and cultural spaces throughout the Greater Blue Mountains region. Aboriginal people have inhabited the Blue Mountains area for more than 22,000 years. The evidence of their occupation and lifestyle in this particular region pre-dates many of the world’s other remarkable heritage destinations, and is an exceptionally important marker of the pre-colonial history of NSW. It is noted that many of the traditional custodians of the land did not give their support or consent for this proposed development.
This potential damage to the culturally significant elements of the Greater Blue Mountains Area also posed a risk to its classification as a UNSECO World Heritage Site. The loss of its important biodiversity and ecological qualities, as well as damage to Aboriginal heritage sites, and the influence of man-made design upon the once relatively untouched bushland would significantly degrade the heritage quality of this area.
For these reasons, many other significant community and expert associations expressed concern regarding the raising of the Warragamba Dam wall, including: Australia ICOMOS; International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN); Heritage NSW; and the Blue Mountains City Council.
It’s also important to note that over 95% of the submissions made in response to the Environmental Impact Statement Assessment in 2021 did not support this project.
The National Trust supports the withdrawal of the proposal to raise the Warragamba Dam wall. It signifies an appropriate governmental understanding of the cultural significance of the Greater Blue Mountains Area, and a respect for its Aboriginal, ecological, scientific, aesthetic and social values. We hope to see continued environmental conservation of important heritage sites into the future.
The National Trust (NSW)’s mission is to advocate for the conservation of built, cultural and natural heritage. Find out more about our advocacy work.
If you’d like to stay up-to-date on the latest National Trust news, events and special offers, subscribe to our free monthly newsletter.