Monday, 22 February 2010
Private Members’ Business
World Wetlands Day 2010
I welcome the opportunity to speak in support of the motion by the member for Page on World Wetlands Day. Between 1997 and 2007 I served as a member of the Salisbury council. During that time Salisbury council became a world leader in constructing man-made wetlands and using them to collect stormwater, cleanse it and then store it underground for use as it was required later. It was the result of the collective work of many people over three decades. The work is continuing today and the city of Salisbury now has some 36 wetlands covering around 260 hectares. Noticeably, the regeneration of the local ecosystem has been enhanced because of those wetlands. Statistics on some of the changes we have seen in recent years include: 173 species of birds, including 24 species of migratory waders, have been observed; 37 native aquatic invertebrate groups have been spotted; and seven native reptile species, seven native mammal species, five native fish species and four native frog species have been seen. That is just an example of the return to nature in habitat that had previously disappeared. Mr Deputy Speaker Adams, you would be familiar with the Salisbury wetlands because I recall that some years ago you visited the wetlands as a member of parliament and saw precisely some of the things I might refer to in a moment.
It is interesting that in the lead-up to the 2010 South Australian state election and in the face of a long drought period a swag of political converts to wetlands development as a source of water supply have emerged. People who previously knew nothing and did nothing about stormwater harvesting have seen the political opportunity and, out of nowhere, have become advocates of and experts in the process. Such has been the case with the state election announcement by the Liberal Party in South Australia that, if elected on 20 March, the Liberals will spend millions of dollars on further filtering harvested stormwater so that it can be used for human purposes. The policy is seriously flawed, it is illogical and it highlights the Liberals’ lack of understanding of this issue. In summary, the Liberal policy of mechanically filtering wetlands water and distributing it through the mains water system is financially wasteful. It will drive up water prices for those using wetlands water for non-human purposes. It will add financial cost to industry. It will discourage investment in water harvesting schemes by councils and it will deprive councils of a very valuable income source in the future.
I will go through those points in the time that I have. It is financially wasteful because it is simply unnecessary. More than 50 per cent of the household water used by homeowners is used for non-human purposes. Around 50 per cent of all water used in the Adelaide metropolitan area is used for non-human purposes. So you do not need to filter water to the level that needs to be done when it is going to be used by humans. It will also force up the price of water for three obvious reasons: firstly, the cost of the treatment has to be factored into the price; secondly, once the water is put into the mains system there will only be one price that can apply and that is the mains water price; and, thirdly, it will reduce competition in the marketplace for sourcing your water, which is applying right now.
The policy will disadvantaged schools, sports clubs and industry. They are all major users for whom even a small increase in water price will make a significant difference. I recently had to intervene on behalf of a sports club which wanted to access stormwater to irrigate its facility because if it could not get access to that water the sports club was going to become unviable. The classic industry case is Michell Wool. On Parafield Airport, Salisbury council has developed a major wetland, and it was developed specifically to ensure that Michell Wool could access stormwater at a much cheaper price than mains water in order to ensure the industry remained viable. I see only today in the Advertiser that the Australian Industry Group is raising its concerns about the future of water prices. Again, doing what the Liberals propose is certainly going to make it more difficult for industry to have access to water that is fit for purpose but has not been treated to the extent that they want.
Pumping additional water through the mains is also not a smart option at all. The additional pressure that would be applied to the pipe system would require a major upgrade of the current infrastructure. Again, this is something which I am sure has not been factored in by the Liberals. In summary, the Liberals’ policy is poorly thought through, it will drive up water prices and it will discourage wetlands development in South Australia.