Natural Gas Authority (Notice Of Works) Amendment Bill

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY(Leader of the Opposition)(16:34:49): I rise on behalf of the opposition to speak to the Natural Gas Authority (Notice of Works) Amendment Bill 2015 and indicate that the opposition will be supporting this bill. It is a necessary piece of legislation which essentially deals with the integrity of vital infrastructure and, more importantly, public safety.

The relevant act, the Natural Gas Authority Act, deals with the Moomba gas pipeline and the Katnook gas pipeline, and obviously the smaller lines which spur from them. In the mid-90s those pipelines were sold to Epic Energy and the associated act was amended accordingly. Under the previous act, there had been registered easements and those easements were then enshrined in legislation. However, and I am unsure as to the reason why, those amendments did not put a requirement on the landowners of the easements to give notice or to gain the consent of Epic Energy to carry out works within the easements.

South Australian communities have a huge reliance on the integrity of these pipelines. Indeed, we saw in April, when the supply was cut to some 8,500 customers in Port Pirie and Whyalla, just how much of an impact it can have on families and small businesses when the line sustains damage such as it did and, in fact, some businesses I suspect are still suffering some economic penalty or pain from the time of that outage.

Mr Clive D'Cruz, the general manager of operations at Epic Energy said that the pipeline operations is essentially a business of managing hazards and that one of the biggest challenges is mitigating the risk associated with their assets. It is the state's role to do whatever is reasonable and practicable to assist them in those functions.

I have taken guidance from my colleague in another place, the shadow minister for mineral resources and energy, Dan van Holst Pellekaan, the member for Stuart, and concur with him that the legislation has been proposed in a sensible way, where the pipeline owner cannot be obstructionist unless there is some justification. Under the bill, if a landowner proposes certain works, which are prescribed, Epic has the opportunity to object, but only if there is the opinion that it would interfere with the safety or operation of the pipeline or the associated equipment. Those works could include:

excavation, drilling, installing or digging a pit, erecting something that requires a foundation, digging a well, some pavement or some other structure;

disturbing alteration grades and contours of the land;

planting trees or shrubs;

storing plant machinery, equipment or material; and

using explosives.

The bill actually specifies that easements are between 15 to 25 metres in width from the pipeline and three to 15 metres from the spur pipelines. Just to rehash the notification requirements, the landowner has to give 21 days' notice of proposed works and, within 14 days of receiving that written notice, the authority has to lodge an objection or approval. That period can be extended by mutual agreement or negotiation. The works could actually proceed sooner than the 21 days were permission given by the pipeline owner, which would sometimes be the case for certain works.

If there is an objection, the minister gets notified and can choose to mediate or not. The minister would have 21 days to advise the parties that they have chosen to mediate; otherwise it will be taken that the minister will remain uninvolved. The matter can proceed to the Wardens Court if the ministerial mediation is unsuccessful.

My colleague, the shadow minister, did question the minister on how this legislation would operate in the case where emergency works needed to be done—for example, if there was a train derailment and it happened to fall on the easement. The minister took that on notice and I am advised that he has come back and said that appropriate permission would be given immediately in an emergency situation. That is all that can really be expected without any further details of a specific potential incident, so the opposition is satisfied with the minister's response.

As I stated at the beginning of my remarks, this is a sensible and necessary piece of legislation to ensure the continued and reliable supply of natural gas to South Australians, the safety of the public and landowners, and business security for the pipeline owner. On behalf of the opposition I commend the bill to the chamber.

The Hon. G.E. GAGO(Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills, Minister for Science and Information Economy, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Business Services and Consumers)(16:39:09): I thank the opposition for its second reading contribution and its support for this fairly straightforward bill and look forward to it being dealt with expeditiously through the committee stage.

Bill read a second time.

Committee Stage

Bill taken through committee without amendment.

Third Reading

The Hon. G.E. GAGO(Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills, Minister for Science and Information Economy, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Business Services and Consumers)(16:41:22): I move:

That this bill be now read a third time.

Bill read a third time and passed.

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