19 September 2019
Watch Dr Marjorie O'Neill's speech here: https://www.facebook.com/MarjorieONeillCoogeeMP/videos/2417665268487490/
Dr MARJORIE O'NEILL (Coogee) (16:44): Today I bring to the attention of the House a crisis that the Coalition Government seems all too willing to ignore—the fact that our State is in drought. I made it clear in my inaugural speech that the people of Coogee care about issues beyond their own border, in particular, water. I am also aware that many of my constituents have written to the Minister regarding the drought and this Government's inaction. While so many parts of regional and rural New South Wales are desperate for water, I live in one of the few electorates of this State that gets semi-regular rainfall.
In my electorate we have a rainfall and stormwater problem but the Government has done nothing to ensure that metropolitan electorates like mine do their bit, as small as it might be, to bear some of the burden of this drought. Prior to this most recent rain Sydney dams had dropped to below half capacity for the first time since 2007 and the Murray-Darling system is at just 36 per cent, with the Northern Basin at only 9 per cent. Thankfully, as of today, Warragamba Dam is at just over 50 per cent. Bigger centres like Tamworth and Orange, and potentially Dubbo and Armidale, as well as smaller towns like Cobar, Narromine and Nyngan, are all considered to be at high risk and may have as little as six to 12 months water supply if things do not change.
What is the Government doing to respond to this crisis? Quite clearly it is not doing anywhere close to enough. A government white paper in 2015 promised more dams for New South Wales but none has been built. The Coalition Government's inaction does not just limit itself to dams and water pumping, it continues across the policy spectrum. The last time level 1 water restrictions were introduced in Sydney, Sydney's water supply levels were just below 60 per cent. This time the Coalition Government waited until they were at almost 50 per cent before commencing water restrictions. When Sydney dam levels dropped below 50 per cent in 2004, level 2 restrictions were introduced and level 3 water restrictions were introduced when dam levels fell below 40 per cent in June 2005.
The Coalition Government has not introduced a statewide water tank rebate scheme despite such a scheme being introduced a year before Sydney water restrictions during the millennium drought. Such an initiative would be well received in the electorate of Coogee. A washing machine rebate program was introduced four months before the Sydney level 1 water restrictions were implemented during the millennium drought but no similar program has been implemented today. The current Government not only has failed to introduce adequate water restrictions it has also failed to introduce any real and prominent water awareness programs. It was a whole year prior to the introduction of Sydney water restrictions in 2002 that the then Labor Government introduced the "Go Slow on the H2O" campaign, but now there is no campaign to be seen and the inaction of this Government shows. As of May this year more than 60 per cent of Sydney residents were unaware that there was a drought in New South Wales. Compounding this State Government's failure, its Coalition colleagues in Canberra have also done precious little to address water security and drought relief.
My electorate, like so many others across Sydney, is now victim to this Government's overdevelopment, with giant apartment blocks being built as far as the eye can see, yet there is no requirement on any of these new apartments to ensure that they are environmentally sustainable or that water tanks are used to capture water to feed into people's toilets or to water gardens. Clearly the Liberals do not care about regional New South Wales and The Nationals are too powerless to convince them to do so. The current Government is asleep at the wheel and the people of Coogee and New South Wales deserve far better than what the Government is handing out.