Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Sydney Drinking Water Catchment) Bill 2017

10th October 2017

Mr GREG PIPER ( Lake Macquarie ) ( 17:31 :24 ): I contribute to this second reading debate on the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Sydney Drinking Water Catchment) Bill. I recognise that the Minister with carriage of the bill is in the House. The member for Kogarah referred to the introduction and passage of this significant bill through all stages in one sitting of this House. I agree with the sentiment. I am not aware of the comments by Andrew Tink at some time in the past. During my first term here—from 2007 to 2011—I seem to recall that it was part of the modus operandi of the Labor Government. While I am in general support of what the member was saying, I believe that we have to be very careful about the examples we use.

I have raised concern about the ability of members to address the issues in a bill—a bill which may be complex or politically charged—when it is introduced and we are given a short amount of time to examine it. But the words "pot" and "kettle" come to mind when I hear a member accusing the Government of overusing that methodology. This bill would appear to cover a fairly narrow issue in relation to the specific instance of the Springvale mine, but it goes beyond that. There may be implications for other mines and for other water catchments around the State. I am sure the Minister knows that my electorate contains one of the largest power stations in New South Wales, such as Eraring power station, owned by Origin Energy. That power station has been producing power at significant rates for many years.

However, I am well aware that even a power station in as good a condition as Eraring can, from time to time, have difficulties. A power station such as Eraring may have difficulty distributing power from one of its four turbines or may have environmental problems such as a change in ambient temperature, which may lead to difficulties in accessing appropriate cooling water or water with enough differential in temperature to operate at levels needed to produce enough energy at peak flow times, such as in the heat of summer. I am aware of the impact of the pressure of prices on members of the community. That is a very genuine concern, I am sure, for the Government and for the Minister who is introducing this bill. It is also a concern for the Minister for Energy and Utilities, the Hon. Don Harwin. It is also a pressing issue for individual members of this Parliament.

I understand that this bill deals with a number of issues. One is the demand to reduce price pressure on energy; another is to ensure the safety of our most precious resource, our water supply. Until the boundaries were redistributed before the last election, the Wallarah 2 mine was proposed for my electorate. That mine is still in contention; I think there will be a determination by the Planning Assessment Commission [PAC] very soon. In my view, there were three main issues with respect to that mine: water, water, water. I am talking about water for agriculture, potable water for the community and water for the environment. We have to make sure, in this particular situation, that we deal with those issues.

I have been listening to the arguments from both sides of the House and I am trying to be very objective. I am compelled by the arguments of the Opposition, largely because they aligned fully with my views, even before I put them to pen. I was very pleased to hear the contribution of the Leader of the Opposition, the member for Auburn, Luke Foley, who articulated extremely well the real problems with maintaining energy supply while protecting the environment and water. The Leader of the Opposition took aim at the position of the Greens. I understand why he did that at this stage, because we have to be very careful about how we deal with the energy mix and the demands in this area. I am pretty sure that one of the worst things that we could do for the environment in the long term would be to have policies that lead to an uncontrollable spike in prices or a collapse in energy supply. As the Leader of the Opposition said, members of the community will not accept that. They would be absolutely furious and it would turn them against many of the very good initiatives that are being implemented as the society transitions to more renewable energy. We have to make that transition.

Coal will need to be phased out as the main source of energy, including base load energy, for people in New South Wales. If that is not managed well there will be a revolt against that transition. I am very pleased to hear the Opposition articulating that point so well, and I am sure that the Government is dealing with that issue as well. The disconnect with respect to this bill is in relation to the water side or the environment side of the equation. We need to deal with the environmental issues in the short term, the medium term and the long term. In the short term, this bill should have been delayed to allow for the proper consideration of the courts. It should certainly provide for the proper introduction of the highest quality water treatment possible for any discharges from the Springvale mine.

The bottom line to this legislation is that we must make sure that the lights stay on and that people can afford to keep their lights on. We also must ensure that the environmental tests are not just adequate but are as good as they possibly can be. We are a rich nation and society. People expect that the New South Wales Government will deliver only the absolute best it can for the people of New South Wales, and particularly for the environment. At this stage I am likely to support the Opposition's amendments, but I am torn in relation to this bill because I understand we need to keep Springvale operational. There is a very large investment in the Springvale mine, not just by the mine owner but also by the people of New South Wales who own the natural resources. We should not allow either to be wasted during this transition.

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