EP water to be reviewed

    Flinders MP Sam Telfer is pleased Eyre Peninsula's water needs are being looked into. PHOTO: FILE
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    One of the greatest challenges facing Eyre Peninsula is water – or rather the lack of a sustainable water supply.

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    Community concerns about SA Water’s proposed Billy Light’s Point desalination plant appear to have finally been heard – with the state government agreeing to the opposition’s call for a Parliamentary Committee on Eyre Peninsula’s water supply needs.

    Flinders MP Sam Telfer was delighted with the news and addressed parliament on the issue last Thursday.

    Mr Telfer said the committee would assess current and future water supply and distribution on Eyre Peninsula – including potential industrial growth needs.

    “My community needs the best decisions made on their sustainable water supply, not just the cheapest or the most expedient option,” he said.

    “At the moment, they are faced with a project advancing at Billy Lights Point, a location which has little to no community support.

    “Assurances from the minister and SA Water about their confidence in such a location not negatively impacting the local marine environment and aquaculture have seemed hollow.”

    An SA Water spokesperson said with the motion only passing in parliament last week, it would “now work with the state government to understand next steps for the project and participate as requested in the select committee process”.

    “Our focus will continue to be delivering a long-term water security solution for the Eyre Peninsula, including working towards submitting a development application for our desalination project,” the SA Water spokesperson said.

    Mr Telfer said in his speech that very vocal concerns from the widespread community, industry, aquaculture, and now the Barngarla Aboriginal Corporation, had all seemingly been ignored.

    The desalination plant has been a political football – with the state government blaming the Liberals for delaying making a decision when they were in power, and the opposition decrying the government’s delay in announcing the site until March 2023, and then opting for a site unpopular with residents.

    The opposition said community feedback on the selected site had been heavily opposed by the aquaculture industry, local government, community leaders, environmental stakeholders and First Nations representatives.

    Those concerns include potential financial and reputational risks to the $200 million seafood sector, environmental concerns, and the loss of hundreds of regional jobs.

    Essential Services Commission of South Australia (ESCOSA) recently reported SA Water had overestimated its claims of operating the desalination plant by almost 30 per cent, and that its estimated operating costs for the plant were not supported by sufficiently detailed business cases.

    That same report stated that SA Water’s proposed $5m contract costs were “inefficient” and “unjustified”.

    Shadow Primary Industries Minister Nicola Centofanti welcomed the Legislative Council’s support for a Parliamentary Committee.

    “The Malinauskas Labor Government’s decision for Billy Lights Point to be the location for the Eyre Peninsula Desalination Plant has caused great concern in the community,” Dr Centofanti said.

    “Since Labor’s decision there have also been developments in the Northern Water Project, which commenced under the previous Liberal Government, and has significant water supply implications to the Eastern Eyre Peninsula. Water is a critical resource and the desalination plant is a state-building project, however, it’s important the concerns of the community are listened to.

    “Only days ago, the City of Port Lincoln Council called for greater consultation and engagement with community and business, as well as reiterating their opposition to the government’s Billy Lights Point project and request to consider the Northern Water project as an option.”

    Mr Telfer said he was happy a review of Labor’s decision was another step closer.

    “Getting the water supply and distribution right for the Eyre Peninsula is crucial for both the short-term and long-term sustainability of our community,” he said.

    “However, there are widespread community concerns about the SA Water preferred location for their desalination plant at Billy Lights Point which I’m sure will be heard throughout this committee process.

    “As well as this, there is the Northern Water proposal, underground water management considerations, and distribution infrastructure needs across the whole region, which all need to be considered in the conversation on Eyre Peninsula water.”

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