By Eve-lyn Kennedy
The Wilcannia Weir is finally happening after decades of fighting.
Local resident Brendon Adams says he’s happy to finally have the new weir on its way.
“People in Wilcannia are thriving on the news.” Mr Adams says. “There’s a real positive buzz around Wilcannia.
“The weir and the return of water has the community talking about plans for future businesses, increased employment and other projects that are already funded.”
Mr Adams says the weir will be located five kilometres downstream from Wilcannia.
Consultation for the weir was discussed locally with the Aboriginal Land Council, TAFE, community members and the Regional Enterprise Development group.
Melinda Pavey, Minister for Water Property and Housing, says the project will secure the community’s water supply, support its deep cultural ties to the Baaka/Darling River and boost environmental, economic and recreational outcomes for generations to come.
“This will be the first time a weir of this design has been built in NSW,” she says, “with a much larger fishway coupled with 3.5m wide gates that can flexibly operate to allow water to pass through when flows are high and store water during times of drought.
“This in-built flexibility will enable the weir to operate most effectively, ensuring the community has access to a more reliable water supply, while also maintaining connectivity and reducing the impact on the environment upstream and downstream.”
Calls for a new weir to replace the dilapidated old weir built in 1942 have gone unheard for decades. Wilcannia man and Radio broadcaster, Brendan Adams, says he’s been involved in the fight for years. He says the late William Bates headed a group over 20 years ago trying to get a new weir.
In 2016, Ex Greens MLC, Jeremy Buckingham, said: “If they build the weir, it will make a massive difference to the people of Wilcannia,” adding that the plan to fix the existing weir was “concerning”.
Just three years ago, Primary Industries Minister, Niall Blair, was still saying the preferred option was to repair the existing weir wall.
Water Infrastructure NSW is also engaging with local businesses to share potential opportunities to help deliver the project.
“We want to deliver sustainable employment opportunities for the people of Wilcannia, and if you own or operate a business locally, we want to hear from you,” Melinda Pavey, Minister for Water Property and Housing, said.
Businesses including material supply, machine operation, truck hire, general construction and labour hire, engineering and consulting, fencing signage, surveying, security, accommodation and more are encouraged to register their interest.
The Australian and NSW Governments have together invested $30 million towards development and delivery of the new weir under the Sustainable Rural Water Use and Infrastructure program.