NSW Labor has demanded that the Berejiklian Government “get a move on” and begin the process to secure the Illawarra’s long-term water supply by constructing a desalination plant for the region.
The Illawarra has highly variable rainfall and over the long term will continue to face droughts. Without a desalination plant, the Illawarra’s water supply is entirely dependent on rainfall. A desalination plant turns seawater into drinking water.
Shadow Treasurer Walt Secord MLC joined Illawarra State Parliamentarians – Ryan Park (Keira), Paul Scully (Wollongong) and Anna Watson (Shellharbour) to issue the formal call today.
Their plea follows economic analysis last week (January 29) by international credit ratings agency Moody’s Investor Services warning that the “most significant risk to the region over the longer term” would be a failure to address the State’s uncertain water supply. This would also impact on the State’s economic future.
On the same day, UNSW’s Science Dean Prof Emma Johnston also backed desalination as a response.
Currently, NSW has one desalination plant in Sydney at Kurnell and it provides 15 per cent of the drinking water for the metropolitan area. It can produce up to 250 million litres a day.
Mr Secord has had an official visit to the Sydney desalination plant and is familiar with desalination plants in Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and in Singapore.
Singapore has three desalination plants and has another two slated to begin production this year. In the UAE city of Abu Dhabi, there are eight major plants and in Israel, there are six major ones.
The Sydney desalination plant kicks in when water levels drop to 60 per cent and the current level is at around 42 per cent.
“We need water for two main reasons – our health and to protect our economy,” Mr Secord said.
Shadow Minister for the Illawarra and South Coast, Ryan Park said, “The Illawarra is home to important NSW industries and a growing population.
“Today, we offer our full bi-partisan support to securing the water future of the Illawarra,” he said.
Member for Wollongong, Paul Scully MP, has previously expressed his support for the construction of a desalination plant in the region, especially in the Wollongong electorate.
“Residents and businesses in the Illawarra need to know that our water supply is secure and this investment would be good for construction and on-going jobs in the region.”
Mr Scully said that the Moody’s Investor Services report should be a wake-up call for the Berejiklian Government and that he was more than willing to work with the Minister on the development and implementation of a viable option for the Illawarra.
Ms Watson said towns and communities across NSW are running out of water and the Illawarra is among them.
“We do not want to see businesses hitting the wall because they do not have water and we do not want to see families suffering due to a lack of water.”
Ms Watson added that it was a previous Labor Government that had the foresight to set up the Sydney desalination plant.
“Originally, the Liberals, Nationals and the Greens all ganged up to attack the desalination plant, but today, we see that it is needed. We need to see the same vision at play in the Illawarra.”
The desalination plant cost around $1.8 billion and was sold by the State Liberal-National Party government to a Canadian pension fund for $2.3 billion.
NSW Labor said it wanted to see the Berejiklian Government begin work on a scoping study that includes a potential site and scale to serve the region.
NSW Labor has already given its in-principle support to the expansion of the Sydney desalination plant.