Sutherland Waterway Pollution

About this Item
SpeakersKerr Mr Malcolm; Fahey Mr John
BusinessBusiness of the House


Mr KERR (Cronulla) [4.1]: I congratulate the Deputy Premier on his sense of timing. Honourable members will recall that last week I raised the subject of a letter forwarded by the Cronulla Development Watch to Sutherland Shire Council. At that time I told the House I would not be silenced on the issue. I want to raise again the quality of the waterways in the Sutherland shire, and request the release of a study on stormwater pollution carried out by Sutherland Shire Council. The residents of Sutherland shire are entitled to know whether all stormwater outlets were covered in the study, what the conclusion of the study was and over what period it was conducted. Honourable members are aware of the pollution late last year of Cronulla beaches, which are generally acknowledged to be the best beaches in the world. A concern was that elements of pollution were found on the beaches. It is time that this House was reminded of the sewerage problem that Sydney has faced for decades. For many years the policy was to sewer metropolitan Sydney. I am pleased that under this Government Kurnell was finally sewered. It was a scandal that an area in which thousands of people lived was left unsewered for 12 years under the previous Government, though it held the seat of Cronulla for many years.

Mr Martin: And held it well.

Mr KERR: The honourable member for Port Stephens said that it held it well. One of the seats that the people in Kurnell did not think they held so well was their toilet seat because Kurnell was an unsewered area. Fortunately, they are enjoying their seating more now under the present Government. For many years sewage in Sydney was regarded as an engineering rather than a social problem. Commendable efforts were
Page 4106
made to sewer Sydney, but no one really looked at the problem of disposal. I am pleased that this Government, though at times it attracted considerable criticism, imposed a levy, because it was concerned for the future. I am pleased also that the Minister for Industrial Relations and the honourable member for Murwillumbah are in the Chamber, for they had the benefit of hearing the Hon. Janice Crosio say that outfalls would be the complete solution to Sydney's problem.

Mr Fahey: What about that swim she had at Bondi?

Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Merton): Order! I call the honourable member for Port Stephens to order.

Mr KERR: I am reminded by the Minister for Industrial Relations of that famous swim at Bondi Beach. Who could forget that! The former Minister's efforts were rather futile, because it became clear that the outfalls were not the solution to Sydney's sewage problem. This Government is now tackling the problem on a comprehensive basis. I remind the House also that for too many people the environment has become a political football. But no longer can the environment be dismissed as the private domain of hard-core environmentalists. Australians - and particularly people in the Sutherland shire - have become environmentally aware. Evidence emerging from the Eastern Bloc reveals that a cleaner, healthier environment cannot be achieved financially or technologically without a thriving economic base and it cannot be merely the subject of rules from above. There must be public participation. With that in mind, the Water Board, to its credit, has appointed committees to advise it on the problem so that it is no longer seen purely as an engineering problem.

I am grateful to people like John Holt, a former national Iron Man who has made his expertise available to help the community with pollution problems. Not only the beaches, but all the waterways in the Sutherland shire should be looked at. The Water Board has commenced a study, which will cost more than $800,000, into the causes of pollution in Botany Bay. It is important to determine whether the pollution is caused by stormwater runoff, rubbish, or sewage, to implement real and meaningful solutions to the problems. I commend the Minister, who made available that funding. I believe that the study must be carried out so that its results can be made available quickly to the public to make use of any comment and expertise from the general community. The environment should not be used as a political football. At Silver Beach at Kurnell, which has been eroding towards Bonna Point, work is about to commence on the construction of two new rubble groynes which will cost in the vicinity of $400,000. They will prevent sand drifting from Silver Beach to Towra Point. In that way, both beach erosion at Kurnell and the disruption to the current ecological balance at Towra Point will be prevented. This is an important matter that concerns not only environmentalists but all of us, because Kurnell is the birthplace of our nation and Towra Point is the subject of international treaties. I am pleased that anchor points for emergency deployment of oil pollution control booms will be provided at the extremity of each of these groynes. This is being implemented as a precautionary measure for Caltex Refinery Company Limited. The honourable member for Port Stephens said it was well served. During the period of the former Labor Government there were many oil spills in that area, but what was done about it?

Mr Martin: The Government is condoning the discharge of raw sewage into Port Stephens.

Page 4107

Mr KERR: The honourable member is not interested in Kurnell, the birthplace of our nation. He is interested only in parochial issues. We are all Australians and it is time that the honourable member showed concern for his heritage. He talks about changing the flag and so on but shows little interest in individuals. [Time expired.]

Mr FAHEY (Southern Highlands - Minister for Industrial Relations and Minister for Further Education, Training and Employment) [4.9]: The honourable member for Cronulla raised a number of issues concerning pollution of beaches and waterways in his electorate. One of his concerns was that a study carried out by the Sutherland Shire Council into stormwater pollution within the shire has not been made available for further comment to residents of the Cronulla region and the Sutherland shire. He made the valid point that although considerable attention has been paid to pollution of our beaches, little attention, perhaps unjustifiably, has been given to various stormwater channels and waterways. The city's stormwater channels ultimately discharge far too much waste into waterways - bays within the Sydney Harbour region or the Botany Bay-Georges River area. More should be done to prevent polluting substances being carried through the waterway processes into the harbour and, ultimately, washed on to beaches. I will certainly bring to the attention of the relevant Minister the fact that Sutherland Shire Council is not willing to release for further comment the study it commissioned into pollution. Unless this is done the problem cannot be constructively addressed. It is pointless commissioning such a study only for council's internal consumption. I trust that the study will be released ultimately. I commend the honourable member for Cronulla for his numerous contributions to the marriage of industry, be it Caltex at Kurnell or other industrial areas within his electorate. There needs to be eternal vigilance to prevent the escape of deleterious materials from these industrial bases, which are so important to the economy of this State, to ensure that the environment is preserved. [Time expired.]