AS our population creeps past 25 million, the need to support our region’s growth with adequate infrastructure will no doubt occupy the dreams and nightmares of our local delegates.
Water is always a growing city’s number one priority, now more so than ever as we try to outlast the longest drought to hit the state since federation.
New England MP Barnaby Joyce wants to upgrade Chaffey Dam again, using the $75m the federal government set aside to upgrade Dungowan Dam. However, following a cost blow out of $330m, it looks unlikely that Dungowan will see an upgrade anytime soon.
With the Dungowan plan falling through, council is investigating a number of big water infrastructure options to secure the city’s future, including a pipeline to Lake Keepit or Split Rock dams and making use of the Paradise Wells.
The previous upgrade of Chaffey Dam is the only reason Tamworth isn’t currently on water restrictions. While water is the most pressing issue, it’s not the only one we face. Tamworth’s annual growth rate is about one per cent – or just over 550 people a year – and that figure is rising year on year.
Earlier this year, Tamworth councillor Glenn Inglis said it was time to develop a new master plan in response to the government’s plan to grow the city to a population of 100,000. Besides water, he flagged ring roads, bypasses, and setting aside land for new schools and hospitals as priorities.
“A lot of these projects have long gestation periods, so the sooner we start thinking about them the better it is for everyone,” Cr Inglis said.
Work out which water option is right, and then budget for it, could take up to two decades. Council estimates that at Chaffey Dam’s current size and the city’s projected rate of growth, it can support 25 to 30 years of growth.
“That’s not that far away when you’re talk about this sort of massive infrastructure,” Cr Inglis said.
He’s right. If this drought has taught us anything, it’s that we need to start planning now, and planning for the worst case.