‘Put up or shut up on dam’

A NORTH East lobby group is demanding the state government make up its mind about the fate of a major project started about 50 years ago.

It says a big dam should be built at Lake Buffalo or land acquired for the project in the 1960s should be returned to private ownership.

Big Buffalo lobby group members Tiff Rayner, Kev Dinneen and Fred Neal will inspect Lake Buffalo with the member for Indi, Cathy McGowan on Wednesday next week.

The retired Myrtleford businessmen have been lobbying for 15 years to have the dam expansion project completed.

“It’s not a new dam, it’s an unfinished project,” Mr Rayner said.

“We are looking for an answer ... about whether it will go ahead.”

Many families lost their land when it was acquired for the project, promised in 1964.

Mr Rayner said a petition to the state government six years ago with 10,000 signatures supporting the development, had been ignored.

And he said most of the acquired land had been allowed to go to rack and ruin.

“The land there is a disgrace, it’s not being managed,” he said.

“It’s overrun by blackberries and bushfires have been through the area.”

Mr Rayner said if the state’s answer was “no”, people could at least move forward instead of being left in limbo.

He said “many acres” should be made freehold again if the project was dropped.

But there would be many benefits if the project went ahead.

“It is important to Wangaratta and the Murray-Darling river system,” he said.

The group met Ms McGowan before Christmas at her Wangaratta office.

It hopes to familiarise Ms McGowan with the area and inform her about the promised dam expansion.

Ms McGowan yesterday said she had written to the minister asking for a decision on the project.

“My job is to work with these land-holders and get a decision one way or the other,” she said.”

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