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Thursday, 19 October 2006
Page: 117

Mrs GASH (9:58 AM) —Charlie Weir is a constituent of mine. He is 78 years old, an ex-fisherman and now vice-president of Shoalhaven Riverwatch and a dedicated champion for the protection of the once mighty Shoalhaven River. I say ‘once mighty’ because, through the New South Wales government, the river is being plundered to supplement Sydney’s water supply—which is being supplemented in this way because there has been inadequate planning to cater for increased water demand by the Sydney metropolitan area. Charlie says that the river is slowly dying. Let me quote his words:

A lot of the fish have gone. We have got no prawns left. They have gone. This was the greatest river in the South Coast once for prawns. I have had a lot of experience—78 years of it—with my dad up and down the river. I can see what is happening and nobody will take notice.

The New South Wales government is certainly taking no notice of Charlie or Shoalhaven residents. I am not suggesting that the New South Wales government have been the sole contributor to the degradation of the river, but they have been the most significant contributor. Human habitation over the years has meant that the river has suffered a dramatic decrease in freshwater flow downstream, particularly since Tallowa Dam was built and during the recent dry spell.

Riverwatch have been involved in remedial and stabilisation work on the foreshores of the Shoalhaven River, but they are facing a mammoth task in the face of the last decree from the state government that they intend to pump even more water out of the river. This can only be an intermediate solution, for if global warming starts to take its toll there will be less and less fresh water to sustain the ecology of the river in the years to come. The Sydney Morning Herald wrote two years ago:

Sydney is facing unprecedented demand for water, with people using more, while rivers face ecological disaster unless more water is returned to them.

The article went on to emphasise the need for improved water efficiency standards, but instead the New South Wales government has taken the easy way out, deciding to draw off another water system. This cannot go on.

I must say I am disappointed by the silence of our state member for Kiama, Matt Brown, whose new electoral boundaries will be bordered by the river. Mr Brown is a junior minister in the Iemma government and he is well positioned to protest effectively at the policies of his own government and to stick up for the people of the Shoalhaven. Instead he is silent. His silence is tantamount to an endorsement of the policy of pillaging advocated by the government of which he is a member. It is a shameful response and I wonder how he can claim to be representing his new constituency by allowing this to go on without a whimper of protest.

The Sydney Morning Herald also ran an article headlined ‘Sydney’s great river robbery’, which was about how the government continues to draw more and more water out of the Shoalhaven River. The article stated:

The state Government published a discussion paper detailing its plan to pump as much as 105 billion litres a year from the river, scrapping the system of only using Shoalhaven water in drought.

This is 10 per cent of the Shoalhaven’s flows, although in most years only half this would be used.

I am not known for jumping into bed with greenies over many issues, but on this one I share the concerns of the Chairman of the Shoalhaven River Alliance, Mr Terry Barrett, that the New South Wales government’s plan to construct a pipeline from the river to the Sydney water supply leaves the door wide open for future exploitation. The state Labor government, despite its rhetoric, has a reputation for doing whatever it wants, despite community protest. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. IR Causley)—Order! In accordance with standing order 193 the time for members’ statements has concluded.