Billions of dollar’s worth of investment in the wider Canberra region will also bring growth to the Hilltops region north-west of the national capital.
The Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro renewable energy project will create work for large and small contractors and indirect benefits to the main towns of Boorowa, Harden and Young, according to Dr Edwina Marks, general manager of Hilltops Council.
“Our aim is to keep our regions on the front foot of growth to leverage other opportunities such as services, investment and potential talent sharing and education,” Dr Marks says.
“It is also to take lessons learned from the mining booms to ensure that there are social as well as economic benefits to these growth projects.”
Snowy 2.0 will link the two existing Snowy Scheme dams, Tantangara and Talbingo, through underground tunnels and an underground power station with pumping capabilities. The first of six generators are expected to be producing power from 2024. Hydro-power will be generated by falling water spinning Snowy 2.0’s giant reversible turbines, which can also pump water in the opposite direction.
Recently, Snowy Hydro appointed ‘Future Generation’ as its main contractor. Future Generation is a $5.1 billion joint venture between Clough, an Australian construction and engineering company and Salini Impregilo, a global hydropower and tunnelling specialist.
Dr Marks says Hilltops could provide services for freight, logistics, fresh food, professional and administrative tasks as well as students.
“That could all be supplied to Snowy 2.0 directly. However, there are also indirect benefits. The provision of those services to the east by suppliers outside Hilltops also creates opportunity for the backfilling of those services by our own suppliers to our immediate surrounds and further afield into Yass, Goulburn and Canberra to make up for gaps in local servicing where Snowy has impacted,” Dr Marks says.
Addressing a meeting of the Harden Regional Development Corporation, Dr Marks said Snowy 2.0 could have positive and negative outcomes. Poor planning could impact on the region, because what might be negative for one person may be an opportunity for another.
“What is important as a region is that there is good dialogue about these projects, analysis of impacts and discussion about opportunities both directly and indirectly,” Dr Marks says.
“This is what will place our region well.”
Harden and Boorowa are becoming affordable housing options for Canberrans, including retirees. Young and Harden draw their water from a pumping station on the Murrumbidgee River at Jugiong, and a fresh study is under way to pump to Boorowa from the same resource.
Dr Marks declined commenting on what impact if any the additional capacity for hydroelectricity would have on the Murrumbidgee River downstream.
“In our discussions about the Boorowa Water Security Project (pipeline) our early conversations with Goldenfields Water are that they assure us they have ample supply from the Murrumbidgee to future-proof our region as they are one of the largest water providers in NSW,” Dr Marks said.
Hilltops is one of 11 councils on the Canberra Region Joint Organisation which also includes the ACT Government and Canberra Airport. “Snowy Hydro have been very proactive about presenting to this group and this has allowed us to have a broad discussion and stay abreast of the project,” Dr Marks says.
“While we don’t control hydro project outcomes we sit at this table with the Department of Premier and Cabinet and Office of Local Government as attendees and we can provide direct feedback into the group around the effects that these state-significant projects have and how we can assist our communities to take advantage or strategise against impact,” she says.