The New South Wales Government has been told to re-do months of Indigenous heritage work as part of the proposal to raise the Warragamba Dam wall, according to a scathing Federal review leaked to the ABC.

Key points:

  • The leaked document accepts complaints that Traditional Owners have not been properly consulted
  • The wall raising would delay flooding downstream but impact parts of the World Heritage area nearby
  • The NSW Government says the proposal’s draft environmental impact statement is under review

The NSW Government wants to raise the dam wall by up to 17 metres to mitigate flooding in highly flood-prone areas of Western Sydney.

While holding floodwaters back would delay flooding downstream in populated areas of Sydney, the extra inundation upstream will impact parts of the Blue Mountains bushland, according to the State Government.

The leaked document, which is a review of the cultural heritage work done for the proposal, says there are concerns within the Federal Environment Department that numerous traditional owners oppose the project.

The document also casts doubt over whether the project can go ahead without their consent.

It accepts consistent complaints by traditional owners over the past two years that they have not been properly included in cultural heritage surveys.

“We’ve been making these claims and complaints since the beginning and … it was always just shoved to the side and we were ignored, but this validates what we were saying,” a Gundungurra traditional owner, Kazan Brown, said.

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The review also rejects claims that temporary inundation of land would only cause minimal damage to Indigenous heritage.

It adds that up to 1,200 sites and artefacts — including stone artefacts, sandstone shelters, rock art, scarred trees and engravings — could be damaged or destroyed.

Important Indigenous heritage like scarred trees could be damaged or destroyed if the area flooded.(ABC News: Kathleen Calderwood)

Further field surveys also need to be done to assess damage from the summer’s bushfires, the review says.

Ms Brown has compared the possible loss of sites and artefacts in the Burragorang Valley to the destruction of caves by Rio Tinto in Western Australia in June.

“It’ll be the same but on a much bigger scale, our sites probably aren’t as old but they’re just as important and there’s thousands at risk,” she said.

Rock art could be impacted if the proposal goes ahead.(Supplied: Kazan Brown)

In a statement, the responsible Minister Stuart Ayres, said the draft environmental impact statement was under review and comments from agencies on earlier drafts would be taken into account the document was finalised.

He said consultation had been underway since 2017.

A spokesperson from the Federal Environment Department said it was continuing to work with the NSW Government on the assessments related to the Warragamba Dam wall proposal.

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