A $2 billion Snowy Hydro upgrade to supercharge dwindling Riverina towns

Supercharging the Snowy Hydro scheme will spark new life into tiny Riverina towns that have been dwindling away since the ’70s.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull unveiled plans for a $2 billion 50 per cent expansion of the Snowy Hydro scheme on Thursday to put the brake on rising power prices.  

Towns like Adaminaby, Talbingo, Cabramurra, Rosewood and Tooma are specks on the map; a far cry from the heady days of Snowy Hydro construction between 1949 and 1974.

Construction of three new tunnels stretching 27km and new power stations tipped to begin in 2018 and take between four and seven years would light up the region. 

Snowy Valleys council administrator Paul Sullivan said the project had the capacity transform the far reaches of the Riverina.

“Little towns like Talbingo – an old Snowy town – has a whole lot of holiday houses that are empty and don't have great capital growth,” Mr Sullivan said.

“All of the sudden there's great rental potential, the golf club will get people for a beer after work and the little supermarket will get people through looking for some lunch.”

Australia’s highest town, Cabramurra, boasted a population in excess of 2000 during construction of the Snowy Hydro scheme in the fifties, but last census only had 364 permanent residents.

The population slide was so drastic that the entire population was given 12 months to move somewhere with more services. 

Adaminaby, with its population of 226, is another tiny town set to flourish.

Adaminaby’s only licenced real estate agent Leigh Stewart has a rent-roll of two properties.

“The Adaminaby economy largely relies on tourism by way of trout fishing and skiing,” Mr Stewart said.

“When the town was moved in 1958 we were getting a lot of people through form all over, including construction workers building the Tantangara Reservoir.

“If this idea of Turnbull's comes off, it will be great for this little town.”

Ganmain accountant Rebecca Cutler has put her hand up to build the new power station and isn’t afraid of relocating.

Ms Cutler’s father and grandfather helped build the current hydro-electricity infrastructure and relishes the prospect of continuing the family legacy and playing a part building “an historic Australian project”.

“I’m not worried about a bit of hard work, I’m happy to get my hands dirty,” she said. 

“My grandad was a civil engineer who moved from Port Macquaire to work on the Adaminaby Dam.

“I’d be happy to move there for a stint.”