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Tuesday, 5 November 1996
Page: 6571

Mr LLOYD(10.45 p.m.) —I rise tonight to place on record my deep concern for the Hawkesbury River system, which forms the southern boundary of my electorate of Robertson. The Hawkesbury River system is the longest river on the east coast of Australia, being some 460 kilometres in length. It has four name changes on its flow to the sea: starting at the Mulwarry Ponds, it becomes the Wollondilly, the Warra gamba, the Nepean and finally the Hawkesbury River.

I have a great affinity with this mighty river, having spent most of my life either playing in or working on the river. Even today I still live on the banks of this river. Unfortunately, I spend far too little time enjoying its beauty these days. I am not unique in claiming a long history with the Hawkesbury.

This river has been a lifeline for the colony of Sydney and today it still supports a successful fishing and prawning industry hand in hand with the multimillion dollar Sydney rock oyster industry. There are many families who are third and fourth generation oyster farmers or fishermen on the river—families like the Buies, the Thompsons, the Johnsons, the Handys, the Singletons, the Davidsons, the Deas and many more who have made their living from the Hawkesbury River.

The river not only has supported these industries but is now a jewel in the crown of New South Wales tourism. Each weekend, thousands of Sydneysiders flock to the Hawkesbury River to swim, to fish—yes, the river still provides some of the best fishing around—to ski, to sail, to hire a houseboat, to enjoy a wonderful meal at one of the many restaurants in the area or just to sit and take in the breathtaking scenery.

The river is the major fresh water supply for the city of Sydney. There are a number of dams and weirs being situated on the river. Major dams in the catchment include the Warragamba Dam on the Warragamba River, which is by far the largest. The Upper Nepean system also contains four dams: the Cataract Dam, the Cordeaux Dam, Avon Dam and the Nepean Dam. The Woronora system includes the Woronora Dam and the Prospect Reservoir. There are also four small dams in the Blue Mountains catchment area.

As Sydney has grown with its urban sprawl, particularly to the west and to the south-west, the environmental pressures being placed on the river system have become almost intolerable, particularly in the Nepean-Upper Hawkesbury reaches. There are currently 21 sewage treatment plants operated by the Sydney Water Board in the Hawkesbury- Nepean catchment. In addition, there are 20 licensed sewage treatment plants in the catchment, although their combined loads are relatively small in comparison with those from Sydney Water Board's plants.

This is an appalling situation. This magnificent river will not survive if we allow this ridiculous situation to continue. We cannot expect the Hawkesbury River system to absorb the urban run-off and sewage outfall from most of Sydney without have a catastrophic effect on the water quality of the river. Thousands of people depend upon the Hawkesbury River for their livelihood and hundreds of thousands of others enjoy the amenities of the river each year.

The technology is available to improve the water quality. Companies such as Memtec based in Windsor lead the world in water microfiltration systems. Other companies such as Land and Marine Environmental Researchers have developed sophisticated monitoring equipment, such as stratacam, enabling instant data on sedimentation to be collected.

Already the river quality is improving. Tangible positive signs are appearing. Dolphins are again being seen in the river for the first time in many years. The fishing is improving. The prawn catches are larger and the future for the river will be bright if the Natural Heritage Trust of Australia Bill and the Telstra (Dilution of Public Ownership) Bill are passed by the Senate, allowing funds to be used to continue the fight to restore this magnificent river.

If the Natural Heritage Trust is established, $85 million over five years will be provided to the national river care initiative. How can those in the other place who claim so loudly that they wish to protect our environment even consider not supporting the government's magnificent proposals to restore this and other waterways that are such an important part of our unique environment and contribute so much to our economy? I appeal to honourable senators to support the Telstra bill and provide the $1.15 billion to the Australian environment.