Snowy 2.0 main works could start within months

NSW Government approves $4.6bn Snowy 2.0 scheme, one tick left

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Start of the Main Works of the Snowy 2.0 scheme could be just months away.

Start of the Main Works of the Snowy 2.0 scheme could be just months away.

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Last hurdle is Federal Government approval

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One final planning hurdle awaits the start of the Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro scheme that will create 2000 jobs and see billions of dollars invested.

Snowy Hydro is paying for the works from its budget, estimated to cost about $4.6 billion, that will include a massive underground generation chamber and 27km of tunnels to carry water back and forth from the Tantangara Dam to the Talbingo reservoir.

The NSW Government on Thursday announced it had given planning approval to the project. A final Federal approval awaits for the Main Works, with a decision expected in the next couple of months.

Conditions have been imposed by the NSW Government on Snowy Hydro to meet environmental concerns about the project in the northern part of Kosciuszko National Park.

The two offsets that have to met include rehabilitation of the entire works areas and also the workers' temporary quarters at Lobbs Hole.

The NSW Government has also required that Snowy Hydro prevent damage to native fish species.

As part of the approval, Snowy Hydro will be required to invest $5 million to develop a captive breeding program for the threatened Stocky Galaxias and Macquarie Perch, install fish-screens to minimise the risk of transfer of pest species downstream, develop an app to share information gathered for the project with visitors of the national park, and restore native vegetation and threatened species habitat once construction infrastructure is decommissioned.

Deputy Premier and Member for Monaro John Barilaro said planning approval for the Snowy 2.0 Main Works would mean new jobs, big investment and big infrastructure for regional NSW.

"Snowy Hydro is an icon of our community, with Snowy 2.0 already employing about 500 people, directly injecting more than $35 million into the Snowy Mountains and involving more than 100 local businesses," Mr Barilaro said.

The Government says once completed, the project will add 350 gigawatt hours of energy storage and 2,000 megawatts of generation capacity to the State's grid - enough to power 500,000 homes during peak demand.

NSW Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes said the project's approval includes strict conditions to minimise and offset environmental impacts.

"In March, we approved the Snowy 2.0 Segment Factory, and this month we have approved the Snowy 2.0 Main Works, enabling the creation of new jobs and the flow of substantial investment into our State," Mr Stokes said.

"The projects approval also requires Snowy Hydro to invest almost $100 million for biodiversity and environmental offsets to protect threatened species and deliver long-term conservation and recreational benefits for the Kosciuszko National Park."

Snowy Hydro's CEO, Paul Broad, said that today's announcement was another major milestone for Snowy 2.0 which is progressing full steam ahead, creating more jobs and significant investment in regional communities.

"For a small and temporary construction footprint covering just 0.10% of the park, we will deliver 2,000MW of large-scale energy storage to support many other wind and solar projects coming online."

Three huge drilling bits are being constructed in Germany for the project - one is 200m long and 11m in diameter.

Meantime, the National Parks Association says approval of Snowy 2.0 is a sell-out by the NSW Government of Kosciuszko National Park.

"Today's approval of the Snowy 2.0 construction project in Kosciuszko National Park marks a new low in the NSW Government's refusal to protect threatened species and natural landscapes," Gary Dunnett, Executive Officer of the National Parks Association of NSW, said.

"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."

"Never before has a National Park been used as a dump for millions of tonnes of contaminated waste. Never before has approval been granted to spread pest fish and diseases across the Snowy Mountains and headwaters of the Murray, Snowy and Murrumbidgee river systems. Never before has a development been allowed to drive a critically-endangered species, the Stocky Galaxias, into extinction. Never before has approval been granted to raze hundreds of hectares of threatened species habitat and native vegetation in a National Park. Never before has approval been given for a project that will result in infrastructure and landscape scars over 35 kilometres of a National Park"

Mr Dunnett added, "The approval flies in the face of the fundamental principles of environmental planning, particularly the need to consider feasible alternatives and assess the cumulative impacts of all stages of a development. This approval has been issued before the EIS for the transmission lines that will be bulldozed through the Park has even been exhibited."

"The NSW Government ignored the 50 energy, engineering, economic and environmental experts and organisations whose analysis utterly discredited the claimed benefits of Snowy 2.0. Their Open Letter to the NSW Premier and Prime Minister states "It is now evident that Snowy 2.0 will cost many times its initial estimate, not deliver its claimed benefits and permanently damage Kosciuszko National Park to an unprecedented extent. Snowy 2.0 is not as it has been publicly portrayed. There are many alternatives that are more efficient, cheaper, quicker to construct, and incur less emissions and environmental impacts."

"The NSW Government has ignored the expert's advice and urging for an independent review of Snowy Hydro's misleading claims for the project. Today's decision will go down in history as an appalling assault on one of Australia's most fragile and precious of natural icons, Kosciuszko National Park."

Meantime, the NSW Government has already approved the Polo Flat segment factory Environmental Impact Statement giving a green light for construction to start. The factory in Cooma will produce 130,000 segments that make up the concrete rings that will line the 27km Snowy 2.0 tunnel.

"We fought hard to build the factory locally rather than importing segments from overseas or interstate because it means local jobs, opportunities and investment," Paul Broad said.

"During the five month construction period we will invest $55 million and create 30 jobs. When it is operational it will have an annual turnover of $115 million and create 125 operational jobs.

"We will also be working with Monaro High School to pilot school-based trade training."

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