Drought blast: ‘Leave if building dams is not your priority’

Water Minister Melinda Pavey has read the Riot Act to senior public servants in a closed-door meeting, telling them to "vacate the room immediately" if building dams was not their priority.

The Daily Telegraph has learnt Ms Pavey showed up uninvited and unexpected to a private meeting between some of the state's most senior bureaucrats, where she delivered a furious spray at the stunned gathering.

"If you're not interested in building dams and water infrastructure then I suggest you vacate this room immediately," Ms Pavey said.

NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey shocked senior bureaucrats when she turned up unexpectedly at a closed-door meeting. Picture: AAP/Dean Lewins
NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey shocked senior bureaucrats when she turned up unexpectedly at a closed-door meeting. Picture: AAP/Dean Lewins

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It can also be revealed that senior bureaucrats told Ms Pavey in her first official briefing as Water Minister that they did not support increasing the size of Wyangala dam - a key drought-busting promise by the Nationals at the last election.

It is understood these remarks in part prompted her comments at the inter-agency drought meeting two weeks ago.

The meeting is held fortnightly in the MLC building in the CBD. It is not attended by ministers, but instead is a meeting for bureaucrats to discuss progress.

Wyangala Dam, near Cowra, pictured in 2006 at 12 per cent capacity.
Wyangala Dam, near Cowra, pictured in 2006 at 12 per cent capacity.

The attendees at the meeting were senior public servants from departments including agriculture, water and treasury as well as a representative from Premier Gladys Berejiklian's office.

Ms Pavey also implied to the bureaucrats that if they needed to miss deadlines on other projects at the expense of the drought then "so be it".

No one left the room on Ms Pavey's orders.

Senior government figures are becoming increasingly frustrated by bureaucratic processes slowing down drought relief.

Last month, Deputy Premier John Barilaro told the Telegraph he believed planning processes and bureaucrats should be bypassed to build dams quickly.

When asked about the meeting, Ms Pavey did not wish to comment.

 

 

The dam again in 2007 at only 4.5 per cent capacity.
The dam again in 2007 at only 4.5 per cent capacity.
NSW deputy premier John Barilaro says planning processes and bureaucrats should be bypassed to build dams quickly. Picture: Adam Yip
NSW deputy premier John Barilaro says planning processes and bureaucrats should be bypassed to build dams quickly. Picture: Adam Yip


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