BARRABA WATER SUPPLY
Mr PETER DRAPER
(Tamworth) [12.08 a.m.]: The 1,400 people living in and around Barraba have a strong belief in the potential of their community. Since 2007 I have been honoured to work alongside them, dealing with processes that are frustratingly slow in the battle to achieve their goals. Barraba Central School is a place where students develop the confidence and self-esteem that comes with success. The school's motto, "The only limitations you have are the ones you place on yourself", is particularly appropriate. It is ironic that the only limitations the Barraba community faces are the ones placed upon it by government. I have spoken often in this place about the lack of a secure, quality water supply in Barraba, and also about the environmental disaster on its doorstep, the Woodsreef Mine.
For many years the Barraba community has been trying to convince authorities that the only solution to its water supply is a pipeline from Split Rock Dam. When Barraba locals learnt that the Tamworth Regional Council had a report on its June 2008 agenda recommending it not proceed with the Split Rock Dam pipeline option because of the high capital cost they attended a meeting en masse and the council rejected that recommendation. Despite often feeling they are hitting their heads against brick walls, the Barraba community never gives up! Reports on the project have included the Barraba Water Supply Augmentation High Security Study 1994; the Augmentation of Barraba Town Water Supply Ring Tank Option 1997; the Detailed Assessment of Groundwater Prospects for Barraba Water Supply 2000; the Augmentation of the Barraba Town Water Supply Groundwater Resource Investigations 2002; the Split Rock Dam to Barraba Water Supply Pipeline Concept Report 2003; the Augmentation of the Barraba Town Water Supply Groundwater Investigation Stage 2, 2004; the Barraba Water Supply Options Development Report (Draft D) 2009; and the Barraba Water Supply Supplementary Investigation Report (Draft B) 2010. Many Barraba residents rightly feel they could have already built a pipeline given the money spent on reports.
Costs keep skyrocketing. In 1994 the Department of Public Works recommended the construction of a pipeline from Split Rock Dam costing $3.36 million. In 2006, a State Government report gave a costing of $6.6 million. A 2008 Tamworth council report estimated the cost would be $15 million. After years of reports Barraba residents are eagerly awaiting the final consultants' report to Tamworth Regional Council due to be presented in December. Hopefully, that report will reveal what locals already know—that is, that a pipeline is the only effective solution to Barraba's water woes. They will then look to local, State and Federal authorities to fund the project.
Another report of great interest to Barraba residents is the Ombudsman's report entitled "Responding to the asbestos problem: The need for significant reform in NSW". This report is an indictment of the State's processes, duty of care and environmental credentials. The Ombudsman's report pinpoints and justifies concerns that have been raised over many years by the Barraba community. Barraba residents have every right to be angry that the Woodsreef mine is the only known asbestos mine site in New South Wales that has yet to be remediated. In a damning critique the Ombudsman states:
Friable chrysotile asbestos is scattered over vast areas of the 400-hectare site, untreated and with minimal security or protection in place. Despite a plethora of consultant's reports obtained by Government showing there is a danger to the health of people inhaling asbestos fibres, very little has been done by successive Governments and agencies to deal with this serious public health issue.
Barraba residents are rightly angry that a health report produced by Hunter New England Health on this issue is still not publicly available. I call on the Premier to act immediately on the Ombudsman's recommendation that $5.5 million be allocated for the remediation project at Woodsreef because funding was unsuccessfully sought by the Department of Industry and Investment in 2009. The Ombudsman concluded his report by saying:
Given the seriousness of the issues raised in this report, I recommend that the Premier advise the New South Wales Parliament within six months of the date of this report of the actions taken or proposed by Government in responding to my recommendations.
Barraba residents expect no less, no matter who is Premier after March 2011. The Barraba community is very progressive and sought Community Building Partnership funding for projects to improve local amenity. As a result, $10,000 provided air conditioning at the senior's centre, $18,000 will enable Barraba rugby club to build a kiosk and storage facility, and $15,000 has been allocated to the Barraba showground. Additionally, Barraba Central School achieved many significant improvements through judicious use of Building the Education Revolution funding. Barraba residents are sick and tired of reports that end up gathering dust. The Ombudsman has made his position on Woodsreef very plain—it is time to act now. If council's report next month says a pipeline is the only satisfactory method of delivering water to Barraba, we need to get on with it. The Barraba community has done the hard yards and it is time for those efforts to be rewarded.