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Work is progressing on the water infrastructure along the Darling-Baaka River in New South Wales, including the completion of upgrades to the Hood and Martin Street sewage pump stations.

First announced in 2018, work is also continuing on the new Wilcannia Weir Replacement Project, which aims to deliver safer and more reliable town water to the region and is jointly funded by the Federal and State Governments.

The fixed crest weir will be located 5km downstream of the existing failed weir and will have a crest of approximately 4.2m, with the highest points on the outer edges being approximately 5.5m

This is expected to boost water storage by 20 percent. The new weir will also include a $76.1 million new fishway to enable native fish to migrate upstream.

The decision to move to a new design was shaped by the responses to the public exhibition of the Environmental Impact Statement in 2022 and further stakeholder consultation and feedback. 

The new design aims to improve water security for Wilcannia by adding an additional 400Ml to the weir pool, while also being safer with less impact on the environment.

The new design will allow for the weir to be modified in the future if required, including raising its height or adding a gate. 

The New South Wales Government said that its priority is to get on with delivering stage one of the new weir along with a new bore and an upgraded water treatment plant, which will significantly improve water security for Wilcannia.

In response to concerns raised about the extent of community engagement, face-to-face community consultation continued in February and March 2024 and contractors Jacobs Group and GHD Engineering undertook test excavations and surveys in March 2024 for culturally significant objects under close supervision from Recognised Aboriginal Parties (RAPs).

While consultation and planning approvals for the new weir are being worked through, other aspects of the wider project are continuing, including the completion of the upgrades to the two pump stations to better protect the Darling-Baaka River.

The New South Wales Government said that the stormwater mitigation works have delivered a low-maintenance, affordable and reliable solution to protect against effluent overflows in the event of a power failure or blockage.

Construction on the new Wilcannia Weir and fishway is expected to begin in early 2025, with completion expected in 2026. Early works, including the Community River Place, which is being co-designed with the Wilcannia community, are anticipated to start in late 2024.

New South Wales Minister for Water, Rose Jackson, said, “I have listened to the community carefully and I have heard their concerns about the revised design, but I want to reassure them, the New South Wales and Federal Governments remain absolutely committed to delivering a new weir that will lock in water security for Wilcannia for generations to come.

“The most important thing for me is getting the project moving, I can understand community frustration at the limited progress since 2018. While I am determined to get started, I also recognise the work can be delivered in stages. That’s why I have instructed my department to ensure the design has scope for further upgrades, including raising the weir wall down the track if needed.

“I recognise there is a deep lack of trust within the Wilcannia community towards government. The reality is the project has taken far too long to get to this point so, I want to be clear about what I am proposing to deliver, when it will be delivered and then deliver on that commitment for the community. The time has come to fast track getting shovels in the ground which is exactly what I am doing.”

Featured image: A new weir and fishway for Wilcannia. Image credit: New South Wales Government.

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