Saving Manly Dam. An economic rationalist perpective.
Manly Dam Reserve is one of Sydney's most valuable community assets. The recent National Heritage listing is a well-deserved recognition of the high conservation value of the Reserve to future generations.

Since the construction of the Dam wall in 1892, thousands upon thousands of families have come to Manly Dam Reserve to picnic, to bush walk and to swim. In 1998 close to 300,000 people visited Manly Dam Reserve, based on a $6 willingness-to-pay, an estimated recreational-use value of $8.4M may be attributed to the Reserve.

In addition, the Reserve has educational and scientific value for local schools and University students to learn about the nature and importance of catchment management and biodiversity conservation. The Reserve provides habitat for rare native fauna and flora and its potential for ecotourism is enormous.

The Dam was constructed originally to supply drinking water to the community and still has the potential to fulfill this historic role- with water becoming such a priceless commodity in our fast expanding metropolis.
With the impending medium density residential development by Ardel at the headwaters of Curl Curl Creek, which drains directly into Manly Dam, the future of Manly Dam Reserve is in serious jeopardy.

The massive clearing of bushland in the construction phase will result in changes in the flow rate and hydrology of the Creek with detrimental effects to aquatic fauna downstream. The subsequent residential run-offs from the built site containing dissolved chemicals, such as herbicides, pesticides and hydrocarbon will drain into Curl Curl Creek and ultimately into Manly Dam with damaging and irreversible effects on the water quality of the Dam. The health of the children swimming in the Dam will be at risk.

There is consensus within the scientific community that dissolved toxic contaminants are tolerated but not assimilated by an aquatic ecosystem and the proposed introduction of an artificial wetland and water quality control pond by Ardel will not solve the problem. There is little doubt that residential development at the headwaters of a drainage system spells disaster for the ecosystem and biodiversity downstream.

The development of the Ardel site at the headwaters of the Reserve must be stopped and the developer compensated. The Federal Government has indicated  willingness to support a buy-back scheme and match the State Government dollar for dollar. The onus is now on the State Government to reciprocate the Federal Government's offer and save Manly Dam Reserve.

Andrew Lo (Lecturer in Environmental Economics, UNSW)

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