Michelle Lensink

Natural Resources Committee: Eyre Peninsula Water Supply

A speech regarding the Eyre Peninsula Water Supply.

Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. R.P. Wortley:

That the final report of the committee on Eyre Peninsula Water Supply be noted.

(Continued from 25 September 2013.)

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (16:11): I rise to make some remarks in relation to this particular report, which is some two years in the making and was instigated by the member for Flinders, Mr Peter Treloar, after many years of difficulties with water supply on the Eyre Peninsula. I think the number of submissions made to this report indicates the depth with which a number of the local residents feel about the issue, the number of stakeholders involved and the fact that this very important water supply has been mismanaged by various government agencies over the years.

I would like to commend the committee, and we heard a contribution previously from one of its members, the Hon. Russell Wortley, talking about the value that many people feel of the work of the Natural Resources Committee. It is one of, if not the, best committee operating in the parliament, and I think that is a credit to its members and staff, so I commend them for the work they have put into, in particular, this report. It is an example of how the committee system should be utilised, where there is a genuine issue that deserves attention and can be looked at in a bipartisan, even multipartisan, way to come up with some form of consensus, which is not always able to be achieved through the committee system, but certainly this committee has reached a consensus on its recommendations and findings.

This issue has gone on for some time and it is something that the former member for Flinders, Liz Penfold, raised many times. As anybody who has spoken to her even as recently as this year would know, she is still on the case and very concerned about that community. So, all of the people who have been responsible for the creation of and contribution to this report are to be commended.

I am not going to speak in detail about the matter. It is quite complicated hydrogeologically. As I often say to people in the community and when I meet with anybody who has a lot of experience in their particular area: we come to parliament and we become jack of all trades and master of none. So, I will not attempt to blind anybody with my understanding of the issues. They have been canvassed in the other place, in the House of Assembly, on 25 September by members of the committee who have spoken in great detail or more detail than I am capable of having not participated in the evidence.

Just a few remarks to say that clearly the aquifers have been under stress and have become degraded and, in that sense, they are not able to provide water security for that region as has been required and will be required into the future, particularly given that a number of mining companies are looking at establishing operations on Eyre Peninsula. There is going to be a need into the future to provide greater water security. The state government agencies deny that it is through actions, and actions that they have allowed, that those things have taken place, and I am pleased that the committee has been able to put the finger on that, if you like, to say that mistakes have been made and that that needs to be acknowledged.

I think that the report provides a way forward in looking at a number of areas where future actions need to be undertaken and I think, for that reason alone, it is very useful. They did seek independent advice from the CSIRO and they have made a number of recommendations that I think are going to be very useful into the future. I think clearly all options need to be canvassed, particularly desalination options for the West Coast because the existing water resource may be able to supply drinking and stock water for the current population and current needs, but I think that, going forward into the future, additional resources will need to be looked at. I commend the report and am happy to support the motion.

The Hon. R.P. WORTLEY (16:16): I would like to thank those who have contributed to the debate and recommend the report be adopted.

Motion carried.

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