Hundreds march to 'Give a Dam' in Blue Mountains

Protestors march against the raising of the Warragamba Dam wall, in Katoomba on June 9. Photo: Zebedee Parkes

Up to 1000 people marched through the streets of Katoomba, in the Blue Mountains, on June 9 to oppose the NSW Coalition government's plan to raise the wall of the Warragamba Dam by 14 metres.

Protesters rallied in the town centre, where 48 nails were hammered into a coffin, representing the number of animal and plant species that are in danger extinction if the raising of the dam wall proceeds.

Speakers condemned the wall-raising proposal as a threat to the environment and a boon to property developers, who would benefit from the resulting use of flood plains for housing expansion.

"The world is watching us," said Give a Dam campaigner and march organiser Harry Burkitt, from the Colong Foundation. "Other countries are appalled at our environmental destruction. The NSW government is pushing ahead with the plan, despite clear evidence of its drastic impacts."

The protest occurred just as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) released a report raising concerns about the Blue Mountains World Heritage listing if the project goes ahead. The report recommends the World Heritage Committee request the NSW government's environmental impact statement be submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review before any final decisions are made on the project.

On June 10, the Blue Mountains Gazette reported Burkitt calling on the federal government to act now. "The World Heritage Committee has spoken, and they don't think it's a good idea — and now it's time for the federal government to step up and stop this dam project," he told the rally. "Raising Warragamba Dam could be the last straw that would put this iconic Australian world heritage site in danger of losing its UNESCO status."

Burkitt predicted that if the plan to raise the dam wall goes ahead, there will be a fight like the one against the plan to dam Tasmania's Franklin River in the early 1980s.

Gundungurra man Dave King, in welcoming the crowd to country, said: "We stand in unity together to try to protect our country. The flooding of this area will destroy my people's creation story, and we cannot let this happen."

Blue Mountains Mayor Mark Greenhill said: "The UN has sent us a warning that the World Heritage listing is at risk.

“I call on the federal government to listen to the voices of this community and to the echoes in time, to understand that the world heritage listing means something and to act now to stop this insanity.

"The councils representing this region will join together to fight this proposal. United we can win."

Katoomba High School captain Arliah Varnellk urged the government to think of the children: "We have bushwalked in this beautiful area. We need the federal government to take action to protect this precious land we walk on. Let's stand together and fight for our future, and the future of the Blue Mountains."

Former park ranger Kim De Govrik, now with the Public Service Association, said the ranger members of the PSA care for the environment. "This proposal to raise the dam wall failed before, in the 1990s, and will fail again.”

He said that if the plan goes ahead, popular walks such as Katoomba to Kanangra would be impossible because the Coxs River would be impossible to cross.

"If we can save the Franklin River, then we can save the Blue Mountains region," he said.

Burkitt concluded the rally by saying: "We have an environmentally rogue NSW government. But do not lose hope.

"We can still save this region. We need your support; keep getting active to continue the fight to save our area."

[For more information visit Give a Dam.]

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