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Thursday, 21 October 2010
Page: 1226


Mr CRAIG THOMSON (12:46 PM) —I rise to talk about the water supply on the Central Coast, what this government has done to droughtproof the Central Coast and also some misguided actions that have been taken by the Wyong Shire Council. First of all, it is welcome news that we all received yesterday: New South Wales is now over a nine-year drought. It is stark contrast when we look back to April of 2003, when drought was declared over 99.5 per cent of the state. In my electorate, following a 12-month campaign that I ran in 2007 along with the local community, the federal government is investing large sums of money to droughtproof the Central Coast. The government has recognised how past and future droughts will affect my region in terms of its water supply and the people who rely on that water supply. At one stage only a few years ago, the Central Coast storage levels for water were down to 10 per cent. They are still only at 30 per cent, so we are still very low for a population of over 300,000.

This government is investing over $80 million into the Mardi-Mangrove pipeline, for which construction is well underway. One-third of the pipeline has already been built and it is on track to be finished before June of next year. This is the largest water infrastructure investment on the Central Coast since the dam at Mangrove Creek was originally built. Once completed next year, the pipeline will be able to send a more consistent supply of water to the major dam at Mangrove Creek and help to build up the water storage areas. This will happen during times of rainfall, when higher volumes of water can be pumped out of the rivers and streams to increase the flows.

The projections of what the effects will be for the Central Coast are quite dramatic. Based on previous rainfall and stream flow levels, the total storage levels could be as high as 80 per cent within five years once the pipeline is commissioned. This is just based on average rainfall. Even if rainfall is low, as were the levels during the last nine years of the drought, the dam levels will still rise to 55 per cent within five years—almost double what we have now. So what this government has done is invest money in water infrastructure to make sure that the people of the Central Coast have that most precious resource: water secure for the future.

With this in mind, it is absolutely amazing that there are some people in local government who still believe that we need a desalination plant. Only this week the local paper is reporting that local council are about to spend $530,000 to keep alive a development approval for a desalination plant at Toukley on beautiful Soldiers Beach. This is not only unnecessary but also a gross waste of ratepayers’ money. It is $530,000 that could be used for a whole manner of things, not least of which would be to fix up some of the roads in the Wyong shire that we have terrible trouble with, and it is also going to spoil one of the most pristine beaches on the Central Coast. This is something that we simply cannot allow to happen.

As I have outlined, we have gone from a situation where our water supply was in jeopardy to a situation where, because of the government’s investment of $80 million to build the Mardi-Mangrove pipeline, the water supply of the Central Coast is secure for the future. To waste over $530,000 of ratepayers’ money on this development application is an incredible decision that totally ignores the investment that this government has made that is going to secure the water supply. If rainfall patterns continue in the normal manner we will have dam levels at 80 per cent, up from the 30 per cent they are now, within five years. If, by some amazing chance, the council decided not only to keep the development application open but to go ahead with the desalination plant on the beach, we could be spending up to $50 million of ratepayers’ money on an absolutely unnecessary desalination plant that is not required.

Wyong Shire Council need to acknowledge the work that the government has done in terms of making sure the water supply of the Central Coast is secure. They need to get their thinking into a more modern stance, and they need to make sure that ratepayers’ money is spent properly, such as on fixing the roads rather than wasting the money on a desalination plant that is totally unnecessary.