Michelle Lensink

Water Transportation Scheme

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before directing a question to the Minister for Water and the River Murray on the subject of irrigation water.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Honourable members would have welcomed the government announcement last week of a fulfilment of a Liberal Party promise to provide the Clare Region Winegrape Growers Association as a trial for third-party access to reduce their irrigation water. The association president, Mr Troy Van Dulken, was quoted on radio—or should I say the wireless—as saying that the price would be about a third cheaper due to the use of night-time transportation. It has taken some two years of negotiation with SA Water. My questions for the minister are: is he aware of other irrigation districts or groups of growers who also would be interested in this sort of scheme, and is he able to advise what the status of any of those proposals might be?
 
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER  (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change)  ( 14:30  ): I thank the honourable member for her most important question. Whether you live in Clare or Adelaide or McLaren Vale or, indeed, the Riverland, everyone pays the same price per kilolitre for the water that SA Water supplies regardless of the cost of supplying that water. That is a debate we have had in this case previously.

We understand that the Liberals—those opposite—and some of their fellow travellers in this place want to actually drive up costs for people living in country South Australia, but the government continues to push back on those calls from the Liberal opposition, and whilst we are on this side of the chamber we will continue to do so.

I am also pleased to acknowledge, in the preamble of the honourable member's question, that indeed we have fulfilled a former Liberal Party promise. The fact is, of course, the Liberals never do. They make promises in the lead-up to elections and never fulfil them. They abrogate them; they fudge.
 
The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink: Well, it's a bit hard when you're in opposition.
 
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: Yes, indeed—winning an election would help, but even when they are in government we understand, of course, that the Liberals make all these promises and have no intention of carrying them through, but Labor is different. Indeed, when we see a good idea, wherever it comes from, if it is the Liberal opposition's, then indeed we will continue those too—

 Members interjecting: 

The PRESIDENT: Order!

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: —but our invitation to the opposition to embrace us and work with us is often left in abeyance, unfortunately. This statewide pricing system, which I said we will adhere to, is considered the most equitable way to spread the cost of providing and maintaining basic water facilities across our community. SA Water does offer an off-peak transportation service where the customer utilises SA Water's infrastructure to transport water to their property. These customers usually hold a River Murray water licence and the off-peak means that, in fact, they can get cheaper electricity for pumping at the time.

Ordinarily the off-peak water transportation supply season operates from 1 April to 31 October or 30 November of each year, depending on the seasons or seasonal demand. Sometimes it begins on 1 May, I am told. These off-peak transportation services are an example of SA Water's actively working with customers to explore opportunities for economic development, and we have been working, as the honourable member noted, with the Clare Region Winegrape Growers Association to explore the opportunities to supply water via third-party access arrangements during the peak summer season. Of course, that's the time when water supplies are under peak demand.

SA Water have met with representatives of the association and have presented an indicative commercial structure proposal for the association. A number of meetings have been held between the representatives of the association and SA Water to discuss various proposals and counterproposals, and I understand that SA Water and the association have now reached agreement regarding transportation terms and conditions. 

I understand that the draft agreement has been circulated and a joint information session was held on 30 April with SA Water, the association and irrigators to present details of the agreement, and we will continue to work with the association towards achieving signed individual agreements with irrigators by 1 July, which I understand is the date, with a view to the scheme commencing operation on 1 December 2015.

These negotiations are an excellent example of SA Water working closely with customers to explore opportunities for economic development and, where there is capacity in SA Water's pipe system, I have encouraged them to go off and talk to local communities about whether they want to replicate this situation and, when we have some positive feedback about that, I will update the house.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK ( 14:34 :36 ): A supplementary, bearing in mind that the actual question I asked was: has the minister been approached by any other irrigation areas for a similar deal?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:34 :47 ): And I answered that question in my last paragraph.

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