SA Water Communications

25 Sep 2013 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make an explanation before directing a question to the Minister for Water and the River Murray on the subject of SA Water's communications.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: This morning my office was contacted by Hands On SA, which is a supported employment service for people with disabilities. They told my office that SA Water had cut supply to their premises in Kent Town this morning without any notice, leaving a minimum of 40 people, most of whom are people with disabilities, without access to running water. My understanding is that it was to do with replacing water meters in the building.

At 7am, traffic control was on site at the direction of SA Water and by 8am the water to the building had been shut off. No prior notice, written or verbal, was given to Hands On SA, the plumber or the building site foreman. Hands On SA immediately attempted to contact SA Water customer service to establish how long they would be without water and what they needed to do to re-establish supply. SA Water did not provide any answers and was told that nobody in the administration section was available to discuss the issue.

Hands On SA then attempted to contact the minister's office, where they were advised that the minister and his staff were in a meeting and no-one was available to advise them. They contacted my office and, subsequent to that, they had some unacceptable behaviour from one of SA Water's contractors directed towards them.

This morning, the building's car park was blocked off and a large shrub out the front was removed without warning, and it is my understanding that in these circumstances when it is required to shut down the mains supply, SA Water is supposed to supply bottled water, which did not happen. My questions for the minister are:

1.Why was Hands On SA given no notice that the water would be shut down, leaving it and its 60-odd clients without access to drinking water?

2.Why did SA Water fail to supply bottled water?

3.Why could SA Water customer service not provide any information to Hands On SA?

4.Why was Hands On SA unable to get any assistance from the minister's office?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation) (14:30): I thank the honourable member for her most important question. Can I say at the outset that the story that she relates to the chamber today would be a very unusual circumstance indeed.

The Hon. G.E. Gago: They make it up.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: I am not going—

Members interjecting:


The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: I was not going to go that far myself, but I would say this: I will have to check with my agency first about what the situation is from their perspective. We have heard one allegation, and I'm not going to accept that at face value until I check it out.

Customer service relations are very important to SA Water. It has been a priority in our conversations, and I have expressed to them that my expectations are that they put their customer service relations at the forefront of their business. It is something that I can say the board has taken up with alacrity, and it is an issue that I know they continuously work on.

The usual practice, as the honourable member outlined, is in fact that advance notice is given to premises and customers. I would be very surprised if that was not the case. I hear what she is saying, that she thinks that it was not the case in this situation, and I will ask the agency to report to me and come back with an answer.