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The need to dam a highly productive river is yet to be proven...

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Lake Orkopoulos

Apr 10th, 2009 by lindaken | 2

Why Tillegra Dam is really Lake Orkopoulos

In the light of Mr Milton Orkopoulos, former member for Swansea, seeking an appeal for his prison sentence as a convicted sex felon, it is timely to revisit the announcement of the proposed Tillegra Dam.

On October 10, 2005, Ms Gillian Sneddon, Mr Orkopoulos’s electorate officer, took a call from a sexual abuse victim. This event, Ms Sneddon has stated repeatedly in the press, was the beginning of a smear campaign by the Labor Party to discredit her.

Mr Nathan Rees was chief of staff for Mr Orkopoulos’s office for about a year until August 4, 2006. This takes into account the time when Gillian Sneddon claims that she was being discredited over the Orkopoulos allegations.

Mr Rees left Mr Orkopoulos’s office very suddenly on Friday 4 August 2006. Three days later, Mr Orkopoulos told Gillian Sneddon he had just received a statutory declaration containing allegations of serious sex offences against him. Mr Orkopoulos faxed the statutory declaration to the police minister, Mr Carl Scully.

Ms Sneddon made statements to police on August 23, 2006, regarding Mr Orkopoulos and assisted the police with their investigations over a period of time until Mr Orkopoulos was charged.

In August and September, 2006, Mr Ben Blackburn, a young man, told Ms Sneddon that Mr Orkopoulos had indecently assaulted him. He reported the matter to ICAC on 31 August, 2006.

On September 11, 2006, Ms Sneddon received a call from Mr Russell Grove, Clerk at Parliament House, asking to speak to Milton Orkopoulos. This, Ms Sneddon, has stated, was unusual.

Mr Orkopoulos was sacked by, the then Premier, Mr Iemma in November 2006 and was subsequently charged on 6 November, 2006.

Approximately 2 days later, Arterra Interactive, a media company, were contacted to complete a DVD image of the proposed Tillegra Dam for a media release

On 13 November, 2006, The Tillegra Dam was announced. This was in the same week that Milton Orkopoulos was charged. This announcement was without any prior consultation or discussion with the Dungog community or council.

The following day, on 14th November 2006, Mr Iemma released the State Plan. There was nothing in the State Plan to indicate that the proposed Tillegra Dam was to proceed.

As well as the Orkopoulos affair, a number of other embarrassing events for the State Government occurred in the lead up to the Tillegra Dam announcement, including:

· October 25, 2006, Mr Carl Scully (Police Minister) was sacked

· 30th October, 2006, Mr Bob Debus (Attorney- General and Environment Minister) announced he would step down at the next election

· 5th November, 2006, Mr Phil Koperburg (RFS Commissioner and Labour Party candidate for the Blue Mountains) was tarnished by allegations of domestic violence

· 6th November 2006, Mr Aaron Beasely (Port Stephens Labour candidate) withdraws his nomination after being caught drink driving

· 6th November 2006, Mr Kerry Hickey (Minister for Local Government) admits to 4 speeding offences

Points To Note:

Mr Iemma was well known for announcing major infrastructure projects to divert attention away from major upheavals within the Government. There had been problems with a number of government ministers leading up to the Orkopoulos affair.

Mr Kevin Young, General Manager of Hunter Water, stated repeatedly from 2003-2006 that Tillegra Dam was ranked as the second worst water supply option for the Hunter region. He again repeated this just three weeks before the dam announcement.

Mr Rees has stated that he had no knowledge of any charges pending against Milton Orkopoulos prior to the minister’s arrest. This does not answer the question regarding his knowledge of offences for which Mr Orkopoulos was later charged and convicted.

After leaving Mr Orkopoulos’s office, Mr Nathan Rees became a staffer to the then Premier Mr Iemma, and went on to become Minister for Water Utilities, before being appointed Premier of NSW. He has maintained a steadfast position on the need for Tillegra Dam, despite well documented evidence to the contrary.

There has been a huge groundswell from water specialists, environmental groups, politicians and the public, regarding the overwhelming evidence against this ill conceived politically motivated Government decision.

There has been widespread media coverage linking the Orkopoulos affair with the announcement of the Tillegra Dam.

Many people in the Hunter believe it is in the public interest that the then Premier, Mr Morris Iemma, and the current Premier, Mr Nathan Rees, be formally questioned over their knowledge of events which led up to the charging of Mr Milton Orkopoulos for sex offences.

The reasons for the proposed Tillegra Dam have never been able to be substantiated by the NSW Government and Hunter Water Corporation. In fact, papers subpoenaed by the NSW Upper House on 26 November, 2008, demonstrated that there was no planning behind the proposed Tillegra Dam decision.

A community based group and individuals have written formally to a member of Parliament, ICAC and the NSW Ombudsman seeking an independent inquiry.

The Government maintains an existing policy against dams

AND……the proposed Tillegra Dam has been renamed Lake Orkopoulos.

2 Comments on “Lake Orkopoulos”


  1. Linda Bowden said:

    In response to Rebecca Berry’s interview with the Dungog Mayor, (MM, Mayor says shire is hurting) I would like to make the following comments. I am a member of the Tillegra Dam Reference Group, representing hundreds of people below the proposed Dam. I have had this discussion around ‘the need to make a decision one way or the other in relation to the proposed dam’ with the Mayor on many occasions. He is well aware that the Liberal/National Party have given an undertaking to review this decision and are more than likely not to proceed with the dam, based on the fact that there are better ways to manage water security in the Hunter ( including upgrading present facilities), and it is an unnecessary expenditure of taxpayers money (ie need).

    The mayor’s need to force a decision on the public is not a good strategy. The proposal doesn’t have to initially go ‘off the books’. If the proposal is delayed, it gives time to: research/investigate better ways to implement water management strategies in the Hunter, investigate improved ways to manage water, educate the public on water saving strategies and educate the NSW Government on the disadvantages of dams as a water management strategy (eg. states like Victoria have a ‘no dam policy’).

    The point is, the Mayor would be aware that the longer this goes on, the less chance that this proposal will go ahead. He would also be aware that there are outstanding issues which make a quick decision impossible. These include: an application hasn’t yet been made by Hunter Water to the Department of Planning for the proposed dam, IPART has asked for more time to make a decision because ratepayers will face a 57%+ increase in their water bills and the Federal Government’s role in overseeing the overall approval of the proposal.

    My view, from constantly dealing with the residents of Dungog, following public sentiment on this issue, and being aware of the economic plight of ratepayers in the Hunter, is that this proposal needs to be off the books for now. This would give time for better planning and decision making.


  2. Gillian Sneddon said:

    Questions the Government should answer;

    What did Police Minister Scully do after being faxed the sex allegations on 7th August 2006? Who did he tell?

    Information has since come to me that the allegations were put under the door MONTHS before the 7th August 2006. In other words Iemma and Rees knew about them. I don’t know how Iemma could keep a straight face pretending he had no knowledge until the night before the arrest.