NSW Govt goes ahead with desal plant

The Premier, Morris Iemma, said rain over the past 14 days had added about seven and a half months to the longevity of Sydney’s drinking water supply.

"Over the past two weeks up to 320mm of rain has fallen on Sydney’s catchment areas, boosting the dams by 336 billion litres of water," Mr Iemma said.

"This is some of the best rain we’ve had in more than eight years, with strong dam inflows recorded over the past two weeks."

Mr Iemma said there was no immediate plan to ease water restrictions across Sydney or back down on a range of initiatives, including the desalination plan.

But he said an investigation would be undertaken to see if "certain environmental flows" could recommence.

Storms have cost over $350 millon – insurers

The cost of the storms that hit coastal areas of NSW this month has risen to more than $350 million, the Insurance Council of Australia says.

Insurers have received about 33,000 claims for damage to buildings, contents and vehicles since the first storm struck Newcastle and the Central Coast on June 8, the council says.

"Repair work is under way and in many cases claims have already been completed and have been paid out," chief executive Kerrie Kelly said today.

Affected policyholders who have not yet lodged claims should do so as soon as possible, Ms Kelly said.

She also issued a warning about continuing danger from electricity.

"The Insurance Council is urging everybody whose home or business was damaged by water to take particular care with the use of electrical power outlets and appliances that may have been submerged, to avoid possible personal harm caused by electrical shocks," she said.

Mr Iemma this week said the final bill was likely to exceed $1 billion.

Newcastle still under threat from Pasha Bulka oil spill

A potential oil spill remains a concern for maritime authorities trying to refloat the bulk carrier Pasha Bulker grounded off a Newcastle beach, NSW Ports Minister Joe Tripodi says.

Mr Tripodi today told NSW Parliament that crews were continuing preparations to salvage the stranded carrier at the end of this month.

"The Pasha Bulker is currently standing up well to the weather and heavy seas off the coast," he said.

"Following extensive discussions with the salvage team and Newcastle Port Corporation however, I’m advised there remains a risk of an oil spill during both the preparation for and the refloating attempt from Nobbys Beach.

"This is not a routine exercise – refloating a 40,000 tonne bulk carrier is a difficult task."

He said the operation was further complicated by the breach in the outer hull of the vessel.

Newcastle Port Corporation chief executive Garry Webb said up to  20 agencies had prepared equipment which could be used if a spill did occur.

The oil spill response vessel Shirley Smith remains in Newcastle on stand-by.

"Any potential oil spill response will be three-pronged, a combination of containment recovery, the possible use of dispersants and a shore-line clean up," Mr Webb said.

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