Water Catchment Areas | SPEECH


Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN ( Stuart ) ( 15:15 :01 ): I rise today to talk about very important publicly owned—so, taxpayer owned—assets under the control of SA Water: I am talking specifically of the water catchments in regional areas all around the state. They are very important, and in many cases are used for drinking water, but in many cases are not used for drinking water. I put clearly on the record my disappointment at the very limited access the public is given to its own assets by SA Water.

I understand the importance of drinking water and the importance of having to protect those assets. The assets are not just the reservoirs, but the bush catchments around them. They do need to be managed, and they do need to be looked after very well, because you cannot take chances with drinking water. I guess there are two really important points here: one is that many of these reservoirs are not used for drinking water; many of them are just used for irrigation.

Many of them, in fact, are used for drinking water interstate without any problems whatsoever. I am aware that in Tasmania, New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT for sure, and quite possibly in other states and territories, reservoirs which are used for drinking water are open to the public. They are not open to the public to do absolutely anything that they want to do in them, quite naturally, but they are made available to the public for recreational purposes.

I think it is also important to point out that the River Murray is where we get the vast majority of drinking water for our state, and yet you are allowed to canoe, swim, fish and do whatever you like in the River Murray. These assets interstate are used for a very wide range of recreational activities, but I do not actually suggest quite that range here for us in South Australia.

We have many of these reservoirs, particularly in the Southern Flinders Ranges in the electorate of Stuart; we have the Baroota Reservoir, the Beetaloo Reservoir, and the Bundaleer Reservoir, which are all very close to each other. All of these could be used for these purposes; none of them are used for drinking water. They would open up tourism and recreation and sporting activities significantly, not only to the people of the local area, but to people who would like to visit from other parts of the state and potentially even interstate.

I do not recommend motorised vehicle access, just to be very clear. I am not talking about four-wheel driving, trail bikes and the like, but certainly there is an enormous number of low-impact activities, such as bushwalking around the catchments; orienteering and rogaining, both recreationally and competitively; mountain biking; picnicking on the banks—that is not even allowed; you are not even allowed to have a picnic on the banks of these reservoirs at the moment—swimming, which will not cause any harm whatsoever; boating; canoeing; kayaking; the use of small sailing boats; and windsurfing. The use of small motorised boats with electric motors only would be perfectly good, as would, of course, fishing.

Fishing for stocked native fish would be a perfectly acceptable practice. In fact, even trout—it might interest people to know that while trout fishing is considered to be a very environmentally friendly activity, trout are not native to Australia, but stocking trout in some of these deeper cold reservoirs would be quite appropriate. So, there are numerous activities that would be perfectly acceptable to do. It is not necessarily a big burden on management and management costs. It is very structurally easy to limit vehicle access, and it is very structurally easy to regulate that it might be only daylight hours, or eight until eight in summer, or whatever the appropriate thing would be.

I would like to propose that the South Australian government takes on a trial of this proposal at the Baroota Reservoir near Baroota and at the Aroona Dam near Leigh Creek. Both of those places would make exceptionally good recreational prospects. They would be good for any of those activities that I mentioned before.

They would bring in tourism and many opportunities for local people to really enjoy the assets they own in their local areas that they are currently locked out of. I think that is a great shame and, as I said before, I understand the significance of protecting water catchments; if other states can do it, we can certainly do it. There is absolutely no reason why a trial could not commence almost immediately. It would be exceptionally low cost and exceptionally high value.