Traditional land owner tells Warragamba Dam inquiry she 'felt bribed' by government consultants

Proud Gundungurra woman Kazan Brown says she 'felt bribed' by government consultants to support the raising of the Warragamba Dam wall.

A Select Committee hearing on the proposal to raise the Warragamba Dam Wall was held last week with several witnesses representing the indigenous community.

Ms Brown told the select committee that she felt the impact this plan would have on cultural sites in the region had been downplayed throughout the consultation process.

"There is no better example of the government and its consultants' disrespect towards our culture then what occurred at a meeting held on the 22nd of July 2019," the Warragamba resident told the inquiry.

"A representative from Niche (Niche Environment and Heritage) and a representative from WaterNSW said to us that if the project was to proceed they would give our people access to areas of the catchment that we are currently locked out of.

"They even went on to say at this meeting that we would be given employment if we were agreed to the project proceeding.

"We shouldn't have to chose between having access to our sites and destroying them, nor do we want their jobs."

The committee chairman, Justin Field, asked Ms Brown if she fell that she was being "bribed".

To which Ms Brown responded: "Yes, I did. I thought it was like having a lolly or something dangled in front of me."

Mr Field said the committee may ask for a list of attendees and details from the meeting where this allegedly occurred.

WaterNSW posted a statement to its website regarding Ms Brown's allegations..

"WaterNSW takes these allegations seriously," the statement read.

"In response to these allegations, WaterNSW will be conducting an internal investigation. No further comment will be made while the investigation is underway."

The state government originally proposed raising the dam wall in an effort to mitigate the risk of flooding in the Hawkesbury region.

A NSW Government spokesman told the Advertiser last month that the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley was the most flood-exposed region in NSW, if not Australia.

"More than 130,000 people currently live and work on the floodplain," he said.

"Research has shown the proposal to raise Warragamba Dam to temporarily hold back floodwaters is the most effective long-term option to reduce flood risk and protect lives, homes and livelihoods.

"The impacts of a temporary increase in upstream inundation - and options to manage, mitigate or offset those impacts - will be detailed in the EIS currently being prepared.

"The NSW Government looks forward to the public exhibition of the EIS, which will allow all interested stakeholders to provide comment when all information is equally available.

"The final decision on the dam raising proposal will only be made after all environmental, cultural, financial and planning assessments are complete."

However indigenous residents, scientists, environmental action groups, local councils, politicians and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) have raised various concerns about the plan to raise the wall.

Ms Brown also told the select committee that she felt her questions and concerns were ignored throughout the consultation process.

"It was clear from the beginning that the governments consultants, Niche Environment and Heritage overseen by SMEC Engineering, was sent to do just one thing - justify the raising of the Warragamba Dam wall," she said.

"Neither the government nor Niche have asked us if we support the project. The consultation process has simply been them telling us what they are going to do.

"They don't talk with us, they talk at us."

Western Sydney minister Stuart Ayres and Wollondilly MP Nat Smith did not respond to the questions about Ms Brown's statement to the inquiry.