Beetaloo Reservoir

16 Nov 2021

The Hon. D.C. VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart—Minister for Energy and Mining) (16:17): It is my pleasure to rise to talk on a topic which happens very rarely in our part of the world and that is the release of water from the Beetaloo Reservoir down the Crystal Brook, past the town of Crystal Brook, under the railway bridge, under the highway and moving on down towards Port Davis on the Spencer Gulf. This is a matter that was raised with me by local community members, people from Crystal Brook and the surrounding district led by Mr Malcolm Sargent actively on their behalf.

I really thank him for raising this with me quite a long time ago at a meeting that we were both at, at Crystal Brook. I took it up on his behalf with the Minister for Environment and Water to see what could be done to have some water released from the Beetaloo Reservoir, essentially for environmental flows.

The primary reason for seeking this was to deal with environmental opportunities that existed to support old and in some cases ancient river red gums way down the bottom end of the Crystal Brook towards Port Davis, but certainly a long way from the town of Crystal Brook. That was the motivation of people wanting to have this water flow down that way.

I was fortunate enough to be taken down to that part of the countryside by Malcolm to see some of these trees and some of this dry and parched landscape. These local people, many of them farmers, had no personal interest in this matter with regard to their own farming businesses. It was not going to make their crops grow any better or make their sheep or their cattle any fatter: it was purely about wanting the environmental benefit for that bottom end of the creek.

I am really pleased to be able to share with the house that the Minister for Environment and Water was able to work with SA Water to get a very significant amount of water let go from the reservoir. The water in the reservoir is essentially there for very few other purposes. It used to be for irrigation and other things, but it is really now a source of water for firefighting. Of course, you need to keep some water in the reservoir to retain the reservoir's own structural integrity, but the agreement reached was that water would be released down to a 40 per cent capacity, which I thought was very fair.

The recent very high levels of rainfall—one inch, and in excess of two inches in some places—has meant that we even have a bit of extra water. SA Water has been good enough to say, 'No, 40 per cent is 40 per cent; anything that is filling the reservoir since then can continue to go down the creek.' It is still to be determined whether the water flow will actually get all the way down the creek—we are talking about 20 to 25 kilometres down the creek—to give a drink to all of that system, but let us hope it does. In the meantime, it has been absolutely fantastic to see every little bit of that creek that has received water so far—and a lot of it has.

I was thrilled to, by chance, be in Crystal Brook the other day. I pulled up in the main street and was on my telephone making some phone calls and doing some emails and things like that, when a local man came and banged on the window. I thought that maybe there was something I could help him with, or that he had a particular question, but he said, 'No, I just want you to drive to where the road crosses the creek at the top of the golf course and have a look at all the kids there, their siblings and parents, swimming and playing and having a ball in the creek.'

It was lovely to take him up on that advice, and I went to that particular section of the creek, which I knew. I reckon there were about 25 kids and probably 15 accompanying adults, lots of boys and girls covered in mud and absolutely loving it, and some other boys and girls who were clearly much more careful; they were drenched, but had not gone for the complete mud bath that some of the other kids had. They were all thoroughly enjoying it, and many people have contacted me talking about the fact that when they have driven through town by the caravan park and the golf course the water was flowing through and how wonderful that is.

I say again: let's hope that as much water as possible can travel as far as possible before we reach that 40 per cent mark. I thank the local community for raising this issue with me and I thank the Minister for Environment and Water for supporting me and supporting the community to make this important thing happen which, I understand, has not happened since 2004.