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Oaky River Dam purchase complete

The official sale contract for Oaky River Dam has been settled by Armidale Regional Council Mayor Sam Coupland.

Following a lengthy settlement period, the $4.3 million sale will see Oaky River Dam, located 54 kilometres east of Armidale near Wollomombi, become a vital component to secure the region’s water supply and a significant step in meeting Council’s ambitious employment and population growth targets.

Armidale Regional Council Mayor, Sam Coupland said “the purchase of Oaky River Dam will address the region’s underlying water security needs, which emerged as requiring urgent attention during the 2019-20 drought.”

And while Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall announced a $27 million funding reservation for the raising of Malpas Dam spillway in the 2022-23 NSW Budget, the Oaky River Dam project is shaping as a priority for Armidale Regional Council moving forward.

“Water security is the number one issue preventing our region from growing,” said Mayor Coupland. “We needed to provide a long-term solution to allow the region to sustainably support growth over the next decade.

“Council has identified Oaky River Dam as the preferred water supply option and the signing of the settling of the sales contract means we can push ahead with this project so our water security for the region is assured.

“While Malpas Dam is a critical component of the water security package, it will need to be lowered to approximately 50% capacity before work on raising the spillway can begin. So, it is essential that the Oaky River Dam project is delivered first so we have another secured water source to fall back on in case of future drought conditions.”

Consultation with landowners who will be impacted by the Oaky River Dam to Armidale Water Treatment Plant (WTP) pipeline has already begun and work on the project has been underway since February 2023.

The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW), through their Safe and Secure Water Program (SSWP), provided a grant of more than $1.8 million for pre-construction works with the project currently in the concept design phase and shortly moving to the detailed design phase.

Armidale Regional Council General Manager, James Roncon, said “Council acted quickly when the option to purchase Oaky River Dam became available and it is now the preferred option for an alternate water source to address water security.”

“The Hydro-Electric Scheme dam built in 1956, failed in 2013 and is no longer active,” said James. “Whilst it does require work to repair and develop into a water source, it is critical infrastructure and will ensure our region is better prepared for any future drought.”

“Compared with creating a new dam, with Oaky it means the impact on the environment is already known. It’s a logical choice to establish as an additional water source.”

The decision to purchase Oaky was a strategic one and it has a couple of facets too it. Water security for the region is the obvious outcome ARC was pursuing,  but we also saw great potential for opportunities by way of third party interests to work with Council on value add options that may potentially support an income stream back to Council.

Council purchased the dam for $4.3M which has been funded from the Water Reserve; that reserve currently sits at $29.6M. More broadly that pool of funds will be used to undertake required capital works on the Guyra and Armidale water treatment plants. Council will continue the process of lobbying the State and Federal Government’s and their opposition counterparts for funding to reinstate the Oaky River Dam wall and construct a pipeline from the dam to the Armidale WTP.

The acquisition comes after Council set ambitious growth targets of 4,000 jobs over the next ten years as part of a Mayoral Growth and Jobs summit held in February 2022.

“Securing the region’s water supply, to support the level of growth required, now provides assurance to future developers that we are open for business and our region is an attractive option for those considering a tree change,” said Mayor Coupland.

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