NSW Water Minister Kevin Anderson freezes on 2GB over Warragamba Dam wall raising reports

The NSW Water Minister has frozen for almost 10 seconds in an awkward radio interview over reports the federal government will not fund a major project, and that the Premier and Prime Minister have not discussed it.

Sydney 2GB radio host Ben Fordham grilled Kevin Anderson over the proposal to raise the Warragamba Dam wall by 14m, which was declared Critical State Significant Infrastructure by the NSW government last week.

The government said the project “would save lives”, “save properties” and help “future-proof” western Sydney properties along the Hawkesbury-Nepean from flood risks.

Early estimates for the cost of the infrastructure project have been around $1.6bn, with Premier Dominic Perrottet and Treasurer Matt Kean both expressing hope the federal government would agree to a joint funding split.

But according to the 2GB, the federal government has already decided it would not help fund the project.

Mr Anderson said he had not heard that when the claim was put to him on Friday morning.

“I haven‘t heard that yet, so we’re waiting on them to come back to us,” he said.

When questioned if the project could go ahead without federal funding, Mr Anderson said that would be a matter for the Premier, Cabinet Standing Committee on Expenditure Review and state government.

“But at this point in time we’ll continue to work toward the federal government funding 50 per cent of this really important project,” he said.

“I‘m happy to pass that on to the Premier Dominic Perrottet and then get his response in relation to that. But we are pushing on in good faith, respect and collaboratively working with the federal government to pull up their fair share to make sure that we protect the homes of western Sydney.”

Fordham also claimed that Mr Perrottet had not raised the issue with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

Mr Anderson appeared speechless after he was told the project had been raised “zero” times despite the two leaders meeting at various times over the last week.

He paused for almost 10 seconds before answering.

“Well that‘s a matter for Anthony Albanese and a matter for Dom Perrottet in terms of what they talk about,” he said.

But the claim could conflict with comments made by Mr Albanese on Thursday last week when he was asked about the project.

“The Premier and I have had cooperative discussions already about infrastructure,” Mr Albanese said.

Mr Perrottet also said at the same press conference that discussions were underway between the state and federal governments.

He said the business case had been completed and was with the commonwealth.

Mr Albanese did not commit to funding the project when asked at the time.

“We haven‘t yet had the business case finalised, assessed, there are environmental approvals, all those things will be considered at the appropriate time. We’ll work cooperatively,” he said.

Mr Anderson said last week the project would save thousands of lives and billions of dollars.

“In a flood similar to the worst on record in the valley, the number of homes impacted would drop threefold from 15,500 to 5000, while 14,000 people would need to be evacuated rather than 90,000. The cost of damages would also be reduced by up to $8bn,” he said.

A spokesperson from the NSW Government said the Prime Minister’s consideration of funding for the dam was welcomed.

“We welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment today to properly consider a funding proposal to raise the Warragamba Dam, following relevant state planning and approvals,” they said.

“This commitment backs up written communication between both governments in July, where the NSW Government requested a 50/50 funding arrangement and that was acknowledged by the Federal Government.

“We are committed to this project to protect people and properties and that’s why we declared it Critical State Significant Infrastructure only two weeks ago.”

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