BARRABA WATER SUPPLY
The Hon. TREVOR KHAN
[5.49 p.m.]: During the past three sitting weeks I have identified the significant water issues that impact on the Tamworth electorate. The failure of the State Labor Government to continue with the augmentation of Chaffey Dam and the failure of the State Labor Government to provide adequate funds for the repair of Somerton Bridge are just two of the very important issues facing the Tamworth electorate. I now bring to the attention of the House the issue of Barraba and its desperate need for water. Again, this encompasses the recurring theme of the failure of the State Labor Government to provide funding for infrastructure in the Tamworth electorate.
Barraba is a town located in the northern part of the electorate with a population of approximately 1,200 people. The water supply for the town is usually taken from the Manilla River, the Barraba Creek and Connors Creek Dam but, due to the drought, the town has consistently had to rely on bore water—water that is not of a high quality. Only 400 kilolitres is allowed to be drawn down each day. That amount of water is barely enough to enable the town to survive, let alone to promote itself as a place for development, tourism or just a great place to live. Tamworth Regional Council and the people of Barraba all agree that the best supply of water would be provided by a 28-kilometre pipeline from Split Rock Dam. That dam, which was built in 1988, has a draw valve in the wall in preparation for a pipeline to Barraba. They had initiative back then, but not now. The annual water demand of Barraba would represent only 0.06 per cent of the dam's capacity. This amount would hardly affect the dam's available water but would, if pumped to Barraba, make a significant difference to that community.
In March 2004 the newly amalgamated Tamworth Regional Council, which included the town of Barraba, made an application to the Country Towns Water Supply and Sewerage Program fund. Investigations were subsequently undertaken to establish all possible avenues for supplying water to the town. At the end of 2007 the Minister then responsible for water, Phil Koperberg, wrote to Tamworth Regional Council stating that he would examine a $10-million proposal for the pipeline to commence. Since that time there has been nothing from the State Labor Government but shirking away from the responsibility to provide a decent water supply.
The Government continued to push for extensive testing of bore water, when it has been proven time and time again that there is simply not sufficient to supply the town, that it has affected pressure from existing bores on surrounding properties and that the taste and quality of the water is below drinking standard. The cost has now reached $20 million. Tamworth Regional Council has pressed this issue with not only the State Government but also the Federal Government. The Tamworth Regional Council has allocated $10 million towards the cost of the pipeline in its forward estimates, but still there has been no commitment from the State Labor Government.
When Senator John Williams raised this issue federally during a budget estimates hearing it was stated that the $7 billion of Infrastructure Australia funding was already allocated. Barraba continues to miss out. Funding from the Country Towns Water Supply and Sewerage Program fund has failed and funding from Infrastructure Australia has failed. How long can the State Labor Government continue to ignore a town in New South Wales that is fast running out of water? The Barraba community continues to be affected by this situation. When I travelled recently to Barraba with the shadow Minister for Natural Resources, Katrina Hodgkinson, it reaffirmed my position that this issue is of vital importance and that the situation should not be allowed to continue.
Barraba will continue to be a viable town in the north-west and will thrive if there is a sufficient water supply, but at the moment that bright future is under threat. If the State Labor Government were committed to the New South Wales economy and if it were serious about ensuring that each and every person has access to clear, clean drinking water, the Barraba community would not have to wait any longer. It is time for the problem to be resolved. It is time for the State Labor Government to meet the commitment of the Tamworth Regional Council and to allocate appropriate funding.