29 November 2010
Time to rethink Hunter water strategy
The state government and Hunter Water should use the rejection of Tillegra Dam as an opportunity to rethink the approach to water security in the Hunter, according to The Greens candidate for Newcastle, John Sutton.
“It’s wonderful news for the Hunter’s farming communities, water customers and environment that the state government has ditched the dam, but a major opportunity will be lost if the Corporation now automatically reverts to the option of an expensive and environmentally damaging desalination plant,” Mr Sutton said.
“During the debate over Tillegra Dam, Hunter Water consistently held the threat of a desalination plant over the heads of environmentalists who campaigned against the dam, arguing that if Tillegra did not proceed, a desalination plant was inevitable.
“Desalination plants are enormously expensive, consume vast amounts of energy, and present significant environmental risks.
“It would be a major lost opportunity if the state government and Hunter Water did not now engage with the wider Hunter community to develop a new sustainable water resource plan with more ambitious water efficiency and demand reduction targets, and more creative and diverse water supply strategies.
“The Department of Planning determination on Tillegra criticised Hunter Water’s needs analysis because it was ‘limited to a small range of options’, adding that ‘a more common approach is to consider a portfolio or suite of options rather than individual options’ [DG’s Assessment Report, p.27].
“It’s now time for Hunter Water to engage with the Hunter community to consider this broader range of options,” Mr Sutton said.
“Water policy is set to play a huge role in future elections in Australia, as Victoria’s Desalination Project proved in the weekend’s Victorian state election.
“In the Hunter, Greens parliamentarians and members have worked closely with local communities and environmentalists throughout the Tillegra Dam campaign, and will continue to campaign for sustainable water management.
“Sustainable water security will only be delivered if strategies have broad community support and are based on genuine ecological sustainability principles,” Mr Sutton said.