A NEW dam at Tillegra would be back on the agenda if the Labor MP for Cessnock gets his way.
Clayton Barr has publicly backed the $477 million project Labor dumped while still in government, and criticised water wise rules introduced under the new Lower Hunter water plan as a sign of green and environmental groups getting their way.
‘‘The party’s position in relation to Tillegra is it’s dead and buried,’’ he said.
‘‘I just think the conversation about water is a conversation we need to keep having.’’
The dam was proposed by the Iemma government but dumped a few years later by the Keneally government after the Department of Planning and independent experts found the project could not be justified.
Mr Barr, who was elected after it had been abandoned, said the dam had been planned and property bought for it over decades, but acknowledged the timing of its announcement was ‘‘unfortunate’’.
‘‘I know that people accused Labor of using it as a distraction to get away from the Milton Orkopoulos [scandal],’’ he said.
The proposal to make Hunter Water customers pay for the project through water bills had been ‘‘atrocious’’, but the dam itself would secure the region’s water supply, with storage levels being prone to dropping quickly, he said.
The Coalition ruled out Tillegra but initially refused to abandon consideration of a smaller version of the project, known as Native Dog Creek.
That too was eventually ruled out in favour of new water wise rules, under which residents are banned from hosing their driveways and using sprinkler systems for most of the day or face possible fines of $220.
However, a new dam in the Hunter was suggested by Infrastructure NSW.
Upper Hunter Nationals MP George Souris said Mr Barr had given the public ‘‘an insight into a Labor plan to restart the Tillegra project’’.
‘‘Why are [Labor leader] John Robertson and [Hunter spokeswoman] Sonia Hornery not censuring Mr Barr for repeatedly advocating Tillegra Dam’?’’ Mr Souris said.
Mr Barr said he was not ‘‘pushing’’ Tillegra within Labor.
‘‘I’m just making sure everyone in the room is clear my position is – catch [the water] at Tillegra and send it wherever we need to send it.’’
But his stance has stunned some who campaigned for years against the project.
‘‘You’re kidding,’’ Linda Bowden, a member of the No Tillegra Dam Group, said in response.
Ms Bowden said Mr Barr should have attended community consultation sessions for the water plan, which supported the demand management measures.
‘‘He’s one uninformed parliamentarian who goes against all the political parties who’ve reached consensus that Tillegra isn’t needed,’’ she said.
David and Brenda Moore at the front gate of the family property at Williams River Valley in November 2010 after the decision that the Tillegra Dam would not go head. Picture Simone De Peak