The Snowy Hydro 2.0 expansion started as a good idea. As the scale of the physical impact of the project became more obvious during the approvals process, environmental groups started to oppose it. After the release of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) the NSW National Parks Association said that the plan ‘proposes a completely unacceptable level of damage to Kosciusko National Park’.

It has now received planning approval from the NSW state government, despite ongoing objections over the project’s environmental impacts.

The Snowy 2.0 project had been earmarked for a fast-tracked planning assessment by the NSW government as part of a package of major infrastructure projects identified to stimulate investment during a challenging Covid-19 impacted economy.

With this planning sign off, the Snowy 2.0 project will now be considered by the Federal government, which is the sole owner of the Snowy Hydro scheme, for final approval.

According to reports in ReNew Economy:

NSW planning minister Rob Stokes said that a condition of the planning approval would require Snowy Hydro to invest almost $100 million in “biodiversity and environmental offsets” to account for potential impacts on the Kosciuszko National Park.

Snowy Hydro will be required to invest $5 million to develop a captive breeding program to support populations of the Stocky Galaxias and the Macquarie Perch, two threatened fish species from the Kosciuszko region, as well as installing fish-screens to prevent the movement of pests throughout the Snowy scheme.

The company will also be required to restore native vegetation and habitats disturbed by the project’s construction.

This release (and the header image) comes from the NSW National Parks Association:

“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” stated Gary Dunnett, Executive Officer of the National Parks Association of NSW.

“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.”