In the last 18 days over 420 people have signed an urgent petition calling on the NSW Government to release the report on proposed Belubula River dam sites. This report was submitted to the Minister late last year but wasn’t publicly released.
Thanks to the public pressure from SCCA supporters, media coverage from our spokespeople and lobbying from local cavers, the NSW Water Minister has today released part of that report - but only the executive summary. Read the executive summary here.
The report summary does not provide any certainty for the Cliefden Caves. The caves are still under serious threat.
Our main concern is that the Needles Gap site has not been ruled out. Instead the report recommends "in-field investigations in the vicinity of Cranky Rock."
Although further downstream from Needles Gap, the Cranky Rock sites definitely have the potential to impact the caves, fossils and rare thermal spring at Cliefden. In fact, the report states that the Cranky Rock sites are only "marginally preferred" to the Needles Gap site. This is very slippery wording!
Armstrong Osborne, one of Australia's leading cave scientists from Sydney University has said today "The Cranky Rock proposals may also represent a threat to caves not flooded by the dams. We currently don't know enough about the hydrology of the cave system at Cliefden to predict the effects of these proposed dams."
The NSW Government must rule out any dam that would have an impact on the Cliefden Caves site and must provide guarantees about its future protection. This report is a long way from such an undertaking and we're concerned that today's announcement is about sweeping the issue under the carpet until after the state election.
We'll await the full report before we make a comprehensive response and will keep you informed.