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‘Drought-proofing’ regional Australia and the rhetoric surrounding Tillegra Dam, NSW

  • Year: 2012
  • Author: Sherval, M; Greenwood A
  • Journal Name: Australian Geographer
  • Journal Number: Vol.43, No.3
  • Country: Australia
  • State/Region: New South Wales

Water conservation, distribution and management are highly contested in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales. During the height of the Millennium drought calls from local politicians and community leaders alike suggested that there was a need to 'drought-proof' not only the Hunter region but also the Australian continent from recurring climatic events. In response to this, Hunter Water Corporation framed its long-term sustainable water policies around the proposed development of 'Tillegra Dam' as a means to ensure future water security for the region. Local residents, centred around the 'No Tillegra Dam Group', opposed the dam, pointing to its harmful effects and more sustainable demand-side options. Scientific studies also indicated that future droughts were unlikely to place stress on current water levels, thereby making the dam unnecessary. Hunter Water, however, co-opted the notion of 'drought-proofing' to argue for the continuation of large-scale infrastructure projects rather than pursue less costly, more sustainable options. As a result, arguments and discourses over the dam's construction became increasingly complex, involving environmental, economic and ethical issues that ultimately favoured local community perspectives. This paper examines how the different stakeholder arguments were framed and considers the important role that communities can play in altering decision making.

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