NRM Committee: SA Arid Lands NRM Board Region Fact Finding Visit


Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart) (11:12): It is a pleasure to speak after the member for Ashford on this report. We did have a very enjoyable and, more importantly, very productive trip to outback South Australia. Madam Speaker, I know it is an area that you support to the best of your ability as well. It is an area I am particularly proud of. An enormous part of the area we visited is within the electorate of Stuart, and the other parts are also areas I am very familiar with and very proud of, from my own previous business life.

The Arid Lands Natural Resources Management Board, which conducted the tour, really does need to be thanked. The presiding member at the time, Chris Reed, and the CEO at the time, John Gavin, put a lot of work and effort into really showing us as much as they possibly could of their area in the time that was available, as did their staff. Three of their key staff, Mr Reece Pedler, Ms Janet Walton and Mr Travis Gotch, also put a lot of time and effort into showing us what they could of their area. All of those people are experts, so we were very, very fortunate to get information directly from them, on the ground so to speak, and once even in the air.

The members of the Natural Resources Committee take the work quite seriously, and they all work in very genuine bipartisan fashion. As far as I can tell, this committee works probably better than most with regard to really doing the very, very best they can in relation to the topic they are considering at the time.

I would like to pull just a few things out of the key findings and recommendations and just make a couple of comments. Obviously, I will not go through the lot, but I will refer to some areas that are of particular importance to my mind and to the electorate of Stuart. Recommendation No. 1 is with regard to staff funding, and it recommends, as follows:

...staff funding and contractual arrangements need to be revisited by DENR to provide greater security of tenure, together with improved working and accommodation conditions , to ensure that outback and remote boards can attract and maintain t he best staff and make the best use of those people employed.

Unlike the member for Ashford, I have never been a union organiser, and I know I never will be. However, I do consider the issue with regard to this part of South Australia as just as important as she does. It is not feasible for this board to try to attract the very best people to do the best work they can when they do not have secure employment. Every year that goes by, there are more and more other employment opportunities for these people, typically in the mining industry. I think we need to enable natural resources management boards to compete with other potential employers so that they are able to keep the best employees possible.

The second recommendation that I would like to highlight is actually the second recommendation of the report regarding outback roads. People in this place know how strongly I feel about the value of outback roads, and I spoke about them again yesterday. It was clear to all members of the committee who took the trip that work needs to be done in a completely non-political way. I think every member of parliament who visited, regardless of their own personal affiliation or background, came away knowing that not enough resources go into this very important issue in South Australia, particularly outback South Australia.

Another fact that came to light—and I certainly was not aware of this at the time—is that uranium is actually mined at Prominent Hill. I think it is important to highlight that. Most South Australians would not know that Prominent Hill is technically a uranium mine, certainly by the standards of other mines, a very small one. Uranium is taken out of the ground at Prominent Hill and then sent to Olympic Dam for processing. I have no problem with that whatsoever, but I think it is important to put on the record that that is an important fact for the people of South Australia to know. I think uranium mining should be supported. It is an incredibly important part of our economy and, hopefully, it will be a more important part of the economy in years to come.

Water, as we all know—whether it comes from the River Murray or out of the ground—is a critical issue, probably the most important issue that we face in South Australia. Interestingly enough, in the comments and recommendations section of the report, No. 5 highlights:

Demand for water from the Great Artesian rapidly increasing due to expansion in the mining and exploration industries. Development projections indicate the GAB will account for 10 per cent of all water use in South Australia by 2016—

which, as we know, is not very far away—

Current board projects indicate the resource is in decline over the long term; with recharge lower than discharge. The resource needs protection for users including the environment.

So, all users being pastoralists, the mining industry and certainly the environment. That is a vitally important issue for South Australia, and it is highlighted in this report. This report also seeks the South Australian government to commit further funding to this issue so that our state is able to access commonwealth funding to work on the project.

With regard to feral animals, certainly people in this house have heard me talk about dingoes a lot, and I appreciate the fact that the member for Ashford (the chair of the committee) commented on this just a little while ago. The report talks about the great difficulties associated with finding a commercial way of harvesting feral camels. There is a project planned, or proposed, for near Port Pirie, and I certainly hope that gets off the ground. It will be a difficult issue because, as everybody would understand, it is very hard to transport camels probably in excess of 1,000 kilometres to market when all you really want is the meat or the other products that you can use for other reasons. I certainly hope that project near Port Pirie is able to go ahead, because feral animals in our area are an incredibly important thing.

The importance of dealing with feral animals is heightened at the moment because of the tremendous season we have had probably for the last 18 months and the fact that high rainfalls have been positive for anything that is trying to grow; it does not matter whether it is a crop in the South-East of South Australia or whether it is a cane toad trying to work its way down into our state from Queensland. All living organisms really have benefited from the rain, including feral animals, so we need to be particularly vigilant, because ferals will explode.

Coupled with that is the fact that a lot of the programs trying to address the problems of feral animals have been really hamstrung, and people may be aware that there is a program worth $19 million to deal with feral camels at the moment. They have actually had to stop their work recently because they cannot physically get to the areas that they need to, and that is true of all areas in the north of the state. This report highlights the importance of getting into the areas that are currently inaccessible because of water as soon as they are accessible to deal with the explosion in ferals—ferals being animals and weeds—because they are both causing great difficulty for our state at the moment.

These are the items out of this report that I chose to highlight. There are some other very important findings and recommendations as well. Again, I thank the people from the South Australian Arid Lands Natural Resources Management Board who conducted the tour and led us through their part of the state, and I compliment all members of the committee, who work very well together to deal with the issues that our committee chooses to look into; and particularly our chair, who leads us very well. The people on this committee do a good job working together on these issues.


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