Snowy 2.0 is being touted as the economic saviour to an area of the Snowy Mountains ravaged by bushfires and COVID-19.
- Snowy 2.0 has been given final approval by State Government
- The business community hopes the project will boost the local economy which has been severely impacted by bushfires
- Snowy 2.0 is expected to create up to 2,000 jobs at the peak of construction
The plan for a new underground power station and 27 kilometres of tunnels linking Talbingo and Tantangara dams received New South Wales Government approval on Thursday.
The State Government said Australia’s biggest energy storage project would inject $4.6 billion into regional New South Wales and create up to 2,000 jobs at the peak of construction.
The local business community has welcomed the announcement and said it was extremely important after the catastrophic impact of the fires on the forestry industry.
“The Tumut Regional Chamber of Commerce has been pushing for Snowy Hydro to employ locals where possible,” president Natalie Randall said.
“I’m confident that will happen. We really don’t want to see people moving away from the area.”
A lifeline: ‘We’re not staying down’
Member for Wagga Wagga, Joe McGirr, said while the logging industry is busy at the moment, jobs will go and this is a chance for those affected.
“I’ve spoken to the Deputy Premier about ensuring the training is there for people to make that transfer so they can stay here where they love living and keep contributing to our community.”
Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the economic boost from Snowy 2.0 will provide a lifeline to industries that have been brought to their knees.
“We are lucky enough in this region to have a once in a generation project on our doorstep and that’s Snowy Hydro 2.0,” Mr Barilaro said.
Snowy Hydro spokesman Dean Lynch said many locals are among the 500 people employed to date.
“If we can employ locals, it’s cheaper and it’s actually a better way of making the project come to fruition,” he said.
Snowy Hydro hosted meetings this week for any locals interested in working on the project.
“We probably had 200 people walk through the door, and out of those, the indications are that 60 per cent of those will be offered work straight up,” Mr Lynch said.
Third-generation worker excited
James McMahon’s grandfather helped build the original hydro-electric scheme and his father worked at Cabramurra — the Snowy Hydro town almost wiped out by fire in January.
He said it has created a buzz in Tumut and everyone wants to be a part of it.
“It’s a good feeling knowing that something big is going on up there,” Mr McMahon said.
The National Parks Association of NSW said it still had concerns about the environmental impact of the project and the State Government’s approval marks a new low.
“Approving a massive industrial construction in Kosciuszko National Park sets appalling environmental and legal precedents and reduces Australia from an international leader in national park management to the bottom of the pack,” executive officer Gary Dunnett said.
The State Government said there are strict conditions to minimise environmental impacts.
Mr Lynch said any talk of detrimental damage was “absolute rubbish” and compared the impact of the proposal to the damage caused by pulling one hair from a beard.
“We’re in a minute part of that park, so when anybody talks about us doing any sort of detrimental damage that is absolute rubbish,” Mr Lynch said.
“We are so conscious of the pristine environment — we’ve protected that environment for 70 years and we will into the future.”
As part of the project approval Snowy Hydro will spend almost $100 million on biodiversity and environmental offsets to protect threatened species and deliver long-term conservation and recreational benefits in Kosciuszko National Park.
Federal Government approval is still needed before the Snowy 2.0 main works can start.