NEW England MP Barnaby Joyce has revealed just how close the Booroolong frog came to scuppering plans for the $43 million upgrade to Chaffey Dam.
The endangered amphibian’s presence around the dam site had planners stumped for more than two years as they struggled to find a suitable solution.
The lengthy delay left bean counters in the nation’s capital looking for budget savings poised to withdraw about $15 million in federal funding.
The threat forced Mr Joyce to approach Prime Minister Tony Abbott personally and fight for the project.
“We skidded very close to the edge because they said if it’s not going to happen, we’ll take the money back,” he said.
State Water proposed numerous mitigation measures – approved by NSW Planning and Infrastructure – to reduce the impact on the frog’s habitat to 6.4 per cent.
Mr Joyce was last week announced as the chairman of a new ministerial working group tasked with fast-tracking construction of new dams.
He said Australia’s water storage capacity was falling on a per capita basis and the Abbott government was determined to ensure infrastructure kept pace with population growth.
“The first dam that we’re going to construct or be a part of is Chaffey Dam,” he said. “It’s also important that we look at other areas in our electorate and throughout our nation where we can go about the construction of dams.
“Dams store water and water is wealth. I’d love to hear back from the community about other ideas for dams they have in this area.”
The committee has a list of more than 100 potential dam sites, including one on the Aspley River in the shire of Walcha.
Work began on the dam’s foundations in the early 1980s before it was stopped by then NSW Premier Neville Wran.