Committee inquiries regularly examine issues that are topical and important to particular communities. An example of this is the Portfolio Committee No. 7 inquiry into the rationale for, and impacts of, new dams and water infrastructure in NSW.
Water security is an ongoing concern for many communities in NSW, and is something that has become even more significant following recent severe droughts. The importance of this issue was made particularly clear during the submission making process, where the committee heard from a large number of individuals and groups across the state. Specifically, the committee heard from landholders and community groups in the areas where new dams and other water infrastructure projects have been proposed.
Hearing directly from these stakeholders is an important part of evidence collection, as it allows committee members to develop a deeper understanding of community sentiment and hear first-hand about issues in the affected areas. The recent activity of Portfolio Committee No. 7 reflects this importance, with the committee holding two days of hearings on 29 October 2020 and 2 November 2020. During these two days, the committee heard from a number of witnesses in the Lachlan Valley, who gave evidence on the proposed raising of the Wyangala dam wall. Being able to utilise videoconferencing technology allowed for the committee to hear from witnesses in regional NSW, and what people in impacted communities have to say about the proposed infrastructure projects.
The committee will continue collecting evidence when it holds more public hearings in late November and early December, in addition to a site visit and a regional hearing in early 2021. Doing this kind of work will ensure that diverse voices and viewpoints are heard, and the committee is able to have a thorough and accurate understanding of how the issue of water security impacts local communities. Being able to see first-hand the dams, weirs and impacted floodplains that are the subject of this inquiry will allow members to further develop their views and consider possible recommendations relating to the proposed projects.