NEW England MP Barnaby Joyce is confident work to complete construction on the long-awaited $45 million Chaffey Dam expansion project will begin next year.
Mr Joyce made the statement yesterday after the Coalition announced $1.2 million in extra funding would be made available under its Community Development Grants program.
The money forms part of a $9.3 million funding package for the New England electorate that fulfils both Coalition election promises and former Labor government commitments.
Under the deal six projects will receive funding – $3.5 million to upgrade Armidale Airport and $3.8 million to repair, widen and strengthen parts of Thunderbolts Way.
Progress on the Chaffey Dam upgrade, which was allocated $43 million in February 2011, stalled after a $2 million funding shortfall was identified and concerns were raised over the potential impact on the Booroolong frog habitat.
The Coalition’s commitment, together with $300,000 from Tamworth Regional Council and $500,000 from the state government, has solved the funding issue.
And Mr Joyce, speaking to The Leader from Parliament House in Canberra yesterday, said he was convinced a solution to mitigate any effect on the frog was imminent.
“I’m happy to say that we will deliver now on the money for the completion of the Chaffey Dam, which is going to be extremely important for Tamworth,” he said.
“I want to see things built. I remember sitting down with the Prime Minister and saying ‘Look, I can’t build Chaffey Dam, which I want to do, because of a frog’.
“Because I’m at the table he says ‘Well, let’s fix that frog problem up’.”
Tamworth mayor Col Murray said the Chaffey Dam upgrade, which would boost capacity from 62,000 megalitres to 100,000 megalitres, would secure the city’s water supply for the next 40 years.
“Council is very, very pleased that the federal government is honouring its commitment,” he said.
“That’s what we expect of our leaders and it’s great to see Barnaby Joyce acting on this quickly.”
Other projects to receive funding include $500,000 to build a new dementia unit at the Kolora aged care facility in Guyra, $250,000 to upgrade the air conditioning system at the New England Regional Art Museum and $80,000 towards the Werris Creek Community Shed.
Mr Joyce said he was determined to “go into bat” for his electorate and secure funding for projects large and small.
“I’m always aware that when you’re down in Canberra that people at home are saying ‘What’s the bugger doing down there?’” he said.
“So it’s good to be able to say ‘Look, we’re actually working flat out to deliver for you’ and I’m hoping that in the near future I might have another substantial announcement.”