Largest dam spills, but axed wall extension defended

As water spills over Australia's largest concrete dam into swollen rivers, the NSW premier has defended cancelling a major flood mitigation project.

The Warragamba Dam, southwest of Sydney, reached 100 per cent capacity on Saturday morning after more than 200mm fell over its catchment in 48 hours.

A record-breaking deluge across Sydney has led to evacuation warnings and orders being issued to several riverside communties including around Penrith, downstream of Warragamba.

The Liberal-National coalition proposed raising the 142-metre dam wall by 14m, saying it could prevent 10,000 homes in western Sydney from inundation during a record flood and stop 70,000 needing to be evacuated.

But Labor Premier Chris Minns on Saturday defended cancelling the multi-billion-dollar project, arguing it would not have helped in the current flood and still left downstream communities vulnerable.

The premier said $2 billion to $3 billion was a lot of money to put into what was termed a flood mitigation program that wouldn't stop flash flooding in those communities.

"You're already seeing some bridges closed some rivers rising and water from the top of Warragamba has only just begun in the last couple of hours," he said.

Mr Minns said 45 per cent of floodwaters in the region came from tributaries and rivers, not over the top of Warragamba Dam.

The proposal to raise the dam wall was also mired in controversy for causing the inundation of historical Indigenous sites and native forest.

The premier boasted of another government decision that halted the development of low-lying areas along the Hawkesbury and Nepean rivers.

He said the decision to avoid adding more residents to flood-prone areas, increasing the risk of harm and choking evacuation routes, had been vindicated.

"Events like today and yesterday prove that it was the right decision although it’s a tough call because obviously we need housing," Mr Minns said.

But he sidestepped calls to discuss flood mitigation measures for northwest Sydney with the Hawkesbury council.

Local mayor Sarah McMahon said the lack of answers from government before communities were again flooded this week, was not good enough.

"I hope it doesn’t take something to happen before he finally listens and accepts my invitation to come to the Hawkesbury and tell us his mitigation plans," she said on Thursday.

Mr Minns said he was "not going to play politics right now".

"We can get to policy changes and disputes between politicians as soon as we're out of the danger period, and I'd encourage every political and civic leader to adopt that," he said.

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