The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 14:52 :16 ): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Water and the River Murray questions about the Northern Adelaide Irrigation Scheme.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: On Tuesday 17 November, a joint press release was issued by the Minister for Water and the River Murray and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries in the other place. It identified up to 20 gigalitres of additional recycled water from the government's Bolivar Waste Water Treatment Plant that could be used by growers in the Northern Adelaide Plains region, predicting that it could create up to 1,000 primary production jobs.
I note in the press release that the minister claimed that the Liberals were late to the party on the Northern Adelaide Irrigation Scheme. It has obviously skipped the minister's attention that the South Australian Liberal Party had a policy at the 2014 election to commit $6 million to the Northern Adelaide Irrigation Scheme project. In the press release, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries said that he has been calling on the federal government for funding for this project for over a year.
It seems ridiculous that the two ministers couldn't collaborate to at least match the $6 million the Liberals promised in the election campaign, from their respective budgets, for a project that their own press release predicts would create up to 1,000 primary production jobs. It is interesting to note that in this time (a bit over 18 months since the election) the government has not been afraid to waste taxpayer dollars on dead ends, political propaganda and cheap headlines; for instance, $10 million to entice OZ Minerals to relocate its headquarters here, while also laying off a number of contractors; $8 million over four years on the ministerial office of Martin Hamilton-Smith; and $160 million on the O‑Bahn extension for a saving of just a few minutes.
It is reported they spent $1 million on an update to the EPAS system which was never installed; hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent to send 84 public servants on a holiday as part of the Premier's trade delegation to China; $236,000 to rent police stations that will remain empty for the next 18 months; and $120,000 wasted on sending letters to pensioners criticising the federal budget. South Australia has the highest unemployment in the country and the state government is sitting on its hands refusing to commit any of its funds to a project that the government itself predicts will create up to 1,000 jobs. My questions of the minister are:
1.How much funding has the state government itself committed to the Northern Adelaide Irrigation Scheme?
2.If no funding has been committed, why has the state government not taken the initiative to match the Liberals' $6 million spend, as promised at the last election, to create up to 1,000 primary production jobs?
3.Given the government is predicting this project could create 1,000 jobs in the state's northern suburbs, can the minister confirm that the state government has made a formal application to the federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources for funding for this project?
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:55 :06 ): I thank the honourable member for his very important question. I guess I should say at the outset in his preamble in trying to rebut the government's position that this is an old, stale, copied idea, which is actually a very good idea because it is ours, has just highlighted the point that it is very old because it is a recycled Liberal Party election policy from the last election, not even a new policy that the Leader of the Opposition in the other place highlighted in his little jobs plan that he put out this week.
It was a couple of photocopied pages with some press releases tacked to the back of them, and I suspect that someone in his office did not understand, because one of those press releases must have been one of mine from a previous statement about the Northern Adelaide Irrigation Scheme (NAIS) and they have just adopted it. But credit where it is due. He saw that it was a great idea that we were putting out and he slipped it into his own job statement.
That is fantastic. We like to encourage the opposition to think more broadly and, if they need to pinch one of Labor's policies to show they actually have a plan, that is fine too. We are not precious about it, if they want to adopt our plans, we are very happy. The Northern Adelaide Irrigation Scheme project aims to expand the use of recycled water from the Bolivar Wastewater Treatment Plant for horticulture irrigation on the Northern Adelaide Plains.
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: Just hang on, there is more to come for you, but let me get some background information. It is very important you understand the background to this. The expansion of recycled water aligns with this government's premium food and wine from our clean environment and exported to the world strategic priority and supports the development of the Northern Adelaide Industrial Food Park which is included in our 2015-16 budget. There is just one issue for you.
It will support economic development, including job creation, and is a more sustainable use than ocean disposal. The NAIS has been identified in the federal Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper 2015 as a project having potential. I understand that the existing Virginia Pipeline Scheme currently supplies approximately 17 gigalitres each year to around 350 customers for horticultural irrigation.
The NAIS represents the opportunity to provide an additional 20 gigalitres per annum of recycled water for intensive horticulture and primary production on the Northern Adelaide Plains. By optimising the operation of the existing Bolivar Dissolved Air Flotation Filtration plant, 8 gigalitres of recycled water can be made available each year during winter. By increasing the treatment capacity at the Bolivar Wastewater Treatment Plant, an additional 12 gigalitres of recycled water will be made available each year resulting in a total of 40 gigalitres of recycled water each year and 100 per cent re-use of treated wastewater from Bolivar.
I am told the Virginia Pipeline Scheme is currently at maximum capacity during summer but has the ability to transport approximately an additional 3 gigalitres during winter. In order to make the winter recycled water available for irrigation during summer it needs to be stored. One method of storing the winter recycled water and making it available during the summer months is to inject the recycled water into the aquifer during winter and extract it during summer—a process known as Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) which we do in Adelaide.
Two investigation bores have been drilled at a site in Two Wells to enable feasibility assessments and technical evaluation to occur. No recycled water has been injected into the aquifer; however, these bores are capable of becoming production bores into the future. I understand there is concern within the Virginia and Two Wells communities regarding the use of the aquifer for recycled storage, and this concern specifically relates to how the recycled water proposed to be stored in the aquifer may impact native groundwater and, therefore, water used for domestic purposes in a few dwellings.
There is no potable water supplied by SA Water in the area surrounding the proposed MAR scheme. No more work has occurred on site since the bores were drilled, and I understand that no recycled water has been injected into the aquifer to date. I further understand that SA Water has begun engagement with the Northern Adelaide Plains communities to identify acceptable options and possible locations for recycled water storage in the Northern Adelaide Plains.
As part of the community engagement strategy, briefings have been provided to key industry groups, the City of Playford, the District Council of Mallala and involved government agencies. A series of eight community information sessions have been held for SA Water to share information about NAIS and potential storage options. These sessions have allowed community members to express their views and concerns about what should be considered in selecting storage solutions. The next step in the community engagement process will be to establish a committee to work with SA Water to establish a master plan for recycled water in the Northern Adelaide Plains.
I am advised that in parallel to these community sessions, SA Water has opened an expression of interest process to elicit proposals to deliver up to 20 gigalitres of additional recycled water each year. I understand that this recycled water will be made available to Bolívar Wastewater Treatment Plant for irrigation or primary production areas in the Northern Adelaide Plains.
Final proposals from shortlisted EOIs received will be required to take the outcomes of the community engagement process into consideration. SA Water will work closely with the Department of State Development and the Department of Primary Industries and Regions SA to assess which proposal will provide the most sustainable and economic benefits for this state.
As I said, the Liberal opposition leader released his job stimulus package earlier this week and on the face of it, it would seem that the opposition leader has finally heard some feedback from South Australians; it is about time. Feedback that South Australians are not after constant negativity from the opposition. Feedback that South Australians have had enough of the opposition constantly talking down the future of the state. Feedback that instead, South Australians want the Liberal Party to engage in constructive debate about policy which will ensure the future prosperity of our state.
Unfortunately, a closer inspection of the package that the opposition leader produced this week for media consumption shows that those opposite have learnt absolutely nothing at all. They continue to be a party without ideas and without a plan for this state, except in one respect and that is the respect that I talked about earlier. When they are not rehashing the same old ideas, the same old failed policies that never saw them get elected, they are borrowing from government. The Hon. Terry Stephens says, 'Tell us about our successes.' In his case, imitation must be the most sincere form of flattery. He is happy to imitate the government plan—
The Hon. T.J. Stephens interjecting:
The PRESIDENT: It is totally out of order. Allow the minister to finish answering the question you have asked.
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: Thank you, Mr President. I do apologise for the Hon. Mr Stephens' behaviour. It is unseemly of him.
The PRESIDENT: Just go on with your answer, minister.
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: It is indeed shameful, but we will let him get away with that today. As I say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. They have no original ideas of their own. They take ours. I am not being churlish about it. I am happy to offer it to them, because we only want the best outcomes for this state. I welcome the opposition's support for one of the government's priorities, the Northern Adelaide Irrigation Scheme. The project will be a fantastic opportunity for the region. As I said, it will provide an additional 20 gigalitres per annum. We should be able to bring it about, and we want to involve the private sector, crucially.
All these guys come up with is some idea to splash cash around and come up with a solution. They have no idea about the amount of research that needs to go into it, no idea about the community consultation that is required, and no idea about actually finding where the forward contracts are going to come from. That is why, crucially, you need to involve the private sector. That is why we have gone down a process of looking for an expression of interest to elicit proposals to deliver that 20 gigalitres of additional water through winter.
As I said, we are expecting those expressions of interest to close this month. I encourage any water users in the area who want to make access for that water, want to form some collectives to actually put in place the infrastructure that is going to be needed to store it and utilise it in the dry months, to come forward and put their propositions to government through that expressions of interest process.
As I said, the state government has submitted the project to Infrastructure Australia and the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund for support from the federal government, and I am very pleased and hopeful that the federal government will recognise the potential of the project, which has been identified in the federal Agricultural Competitiveness white paper 2015 as a project having potential.
I had a discussion with Senator Anne Ruston and minister Barnaby Joyce on this very subject only a few weeks ago and told the two ministers of our interest in working with them in a cooperative way to see this project come to fruition. This is a state government working cooperatively with a federal Liberal government. We would love to be able to do it with the opposition here, but all they are interested in is negativity, bagging the state, driving down confidence. We will get on, we will work with the federal government to deliver for our state.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 15:04 :11 ): I have a supplementary question. I do hope the answer isn't as long-winded as the first one. Given the press release that the minister had his name to, that he had been calling on federal government to fund this project for more than a year, can the minister confirm when a formal application was lodged for funding from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources? When?
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 15:04 :27 ): That is a very interesting question which I will take to the responsible minister in the other place and seek a response for the honourable member.
The PRESIDENT: Order!
The Hon. D.W. Ridgway interjecting:
The PRESIDENT: Order! The Hon. Mr Ridgway—