Environment, Resources And Development Committee: Desalination Plants

04 Mar 2009 archivespeech

This speech is to indicate support for the Environment, Resources And Development Committee: Desalination Plants.

Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. R.P. Wortley: That the interim report of the committee be noted.

(Continued from 4 February 2009. Page 1184.)

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (20:13): I support this motion and state at the outset, personally for the record, that I am not against desalination; indeed, I note that it was the Liberal Party's policy first of all to support a desalination plant. The particular location of this plant, which is to be the old Port Stanvac site, was one of 12 chosen by a committee of the government. While the ERD is grateful for having received an executive summary of that report, we have not been provided with a full report of the research into each of those sites and why the particular site was chosen.

This issue was one which I placed on the ERD agenda and it was because of concerns that were raised with me by Dr Ian Dyson, in particular, who is a sedimentologist who has had a longstanding connection with that area. He was also relying on the research of other eminent scientists, in particular Dr Jochen Kaempf and Dr Kirsten Benkendorff, who are both based at Flinders University. Kirsten Benkendorff was a young Scientist of the Year a few years ago. These are people whose opinions are not to be dismissed, people who had raised significant concernsabout the potential impact of desalination on the gulf and on that particular location.

Their concerns related to increased salinity levels and the potential for de-oxygenation of the marine environment and, in particular, the benthinc environment. The ERD has undertaken this report, which I think provides a balanced view on whether this desalination plant should proceed. I think it is appropriate to summarise our findings. We visited the Western Australian plant, which is in operation and has involved no significant environmental issues.

The most critical points concern the dispersion of the brine and which chemicals are released into the environment. I am pleased that the EIS, which has been tabled, notes that they are the areas that need to be particularly developed. The response of some people to desalination is, 'Well, it happens all around the world so what are we worried about?' However, there is a lack of body of research into the environmental impacts of desalination.

As I have stated in this chamber before, I went to Israel on a water trade mission a couple of years ago. The environmental standards in Australia are much higher and our expectations are higher than they are in other countries around the world. On that trip to the WA plant I noted that there was a holding tank containing a solution with ferrous chemicals. In Israel that equivalent was just pumped straight out into the Mediterranean Sea. I think we do have valid reasons to proceed with caution. I am pleased that the ERD Committee was able to look at this matter in greater detail and note some precautionary warnings. I would like to congratulate our research officer, Val Day, who is employed by PIRSA. I think she did a great job in assisting us to reach our conclusions. I commend the report to the council.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. Carmel Zollo.