Senate debates

Tuesday, 19 October 2021


South Australia: Water

7:42 pm

Photo of Rex PatrickRex Patrick (SA, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise tonight to speak on an issue of significant importance to the people and industries of the Lower Eyre Peninsula, particularly a number of businesses around Boston and Proper Bay in Port Lincoln. I was there last week. I was taken out to Proper Bay to have a look at a site that was being considered for the installation of a desal plant to provide water to the Lower Eyre Peninsula.

Back in 2008, a draft plan looking at the Eyre Peninsula's water problems was released by the then state Minister for Water Security, Karlene Maywald, and it was foreshadowed that a desal plant was to become part of the solution. To be clear, that was almost a decade and a half ago, and little has happened since that time. A couple of years ago, state government approval was given to spend about $100 million to move ahead with the desal plant, and I'll come back to that.

I recently made an FOI request for a report that was prepared, looking at the need for reductions in groundwater pumping in the Uley South Basin, which has been the predominant water source for Port Lincoln. The problem is that there has been too much extraction of the water. Somewhere between 3,000 and 6,000 million litres per annum has been extracted, rising up to 7,000 million litres per annum in the early 2000s, and it turns out it's just not sustainable. Groundwater levels have declined, and the report makes it clear that we need to get a solution sometime in the next three years. We need to build a desal plant.

This year, in April, SA Water started consultation in respect of some options. They had several sites that were being assessed, and some science commenced. But, funnily enough, after last week's examination, supported by a number of businesses—a number of boat operators, tourism operators, the mussel industry, the kingfish industry, the tuna industry—SA Water quickly announced they are moving to Proper Bay as the site. In the face of mounting public pressure and significant resistance, instead of continuing with their consultation, they've simply announced that is the site.

I also have an FOI in place—I am still awaiting the return of it—to have a look at a multicriteria analysis to see and to put face up on the table all the other possible sites. It's unforgiveable that we see the government, in the face of some resistance, racing off down a particular path—noting the trail of incompetence that got us to the point where, since 2008, nothing has really been done and now there is an urgency about finding a solution. I don't know whether the CEO of SA Water, David Ryan, is out on his own here and needs to be reined in by the Premier, but you simply can't do this. When I get the multicriteria analysis, we'll be able to see what the other options are and continue the debate, because it's not over. Premier Marshall needs to rein in what is going on there.

I go back to Thomas Playford and what he did for South Australia. In the last two years, Marshall has been given credit for his management of COVID in South Australia. In actual fact, the management has been good, but there is a difference between 'management' and 'leadership'. Premier Marshall needs to start standing up for people in South Australia and dealing with infrastructure issues and making the necessary commitment. To the incoming candidate for Flinders, Sam Telfer: you need to start standing up for the people of Port Lincoln or you will not be in the South Australian parliament after the election.