Port Pirie's Targeted Lead Abatement Program (TLAP)

27 Oct 2021

Mr COWDREY (Colton) (14:21): My question is to the member for Stuart, the Minister for Energy and Mining. Can the minister please update the house on how the Marshall Liberal government is investing in Port Pirie to provide a safer and stronger community?

The Hon. D.C. VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart—Minister for Energy and Mining) (14:21): I thank the member for Colton for this very important question. I know that he cares about his community in the electorate of Colton and he cares about the Housing SA tenants in his electorate, as we all do across government in Port Pirie. Port Pirie, as people would know, is challenged with decades and decades of lead pollution and our government is determined—absolutely determined—for the people of Port Pirie to make a very significant dent: short, medium and long-term improvements.

As the landlord essentially of the Housing SA properties, our government has identified 43 Housing SA properties in Port Pirie with children under five years old, and people would all know that lead in the air can lead to lead in blood, and lead in blood in infants is a very serious thing indeed. We are determined to address that, so we have allocated $2.5 million, as the landlord, to essentially support the tenants in these 43 homes to help clean up and improve their homes. We know that those tenants have been doing a very good job and doing the very best that they can, but they need some extra help, and we are doing that for them.

We are helping with ways to reduce the dust inside and outside of their homes. We are helping with regard to the sealing of doors and windows and things like that so that dust doesn't get into their house and helping with things like replacing carpet with linoleum so the flooring holds less dust and is easier to clean. We are absolutely determined that we will achieve far better results for the people of Port Pirie through the TLAP program and other measures like this than the previous government did.

We have done this in 13* of the 43 houses already, and we have already seen reductions in the results for testing for lead in infants' blood. There can be absolutely nothing more important that our government can look at than caring for the health and wellbeing of infants throughout the state, and we take this responsibility very seriously. We have announced already that the former 2IC of the environmental protection agency is now living in Port Pirie, has bought a house in Port Pirie and is working on leading this work on the ground.

We have announced already that the council and local community members will have a voice in the TLAP program in a way that they never have before. We have announced an additional 10 years of funding in partnership with the Nyrstar company for this work. The current funding runs out in 2024. While we are determined and already delivering results now, we know that this work needs to continue, so there is an extra 10 years of funding. We have also agreed with the company that any unspent funds in any year will be rolled over, another significant improvement on the previous government's work in this area. We are doing a lot to make sure that the TLAP program is more effective than it has ever been before.

Let me be very clear: I know that the member for Frome and the previous government had good intentions when they put this program together but, unfortunately—very unfortunately for the people of Port Pirie—the results have not materialised in the way that they said they would, when they said, for example, that lead would be a thing of the past.

The Hon. A. KOUTSANTONIS: Point of order, sir.

The SPEAKER: Minister, there is a point of order.

The Hon. A. KOUTSANTONIS: Standing order 98: the minister is not answering the substance of the question. He is now debating the answer and he is attempting to take responsibility for other people's actions. He has no responsibility for the house, the member for Frome or any previous government policy.

Members interjecting:

The SPEAKER: Order! I bring the minister to the substance of the question. There is a short time remaining for the answer.

The Hon. D.C. VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: We are making it very clear that we are getting better results through better intent, through better funding, through better proactivity than the previous government ever did on this issue, and it is working already. We know that this is an issue that will be providing results in the short, medium and long term. There are things we can do already, and we are doing them. There are things that we are working on now which will deal with decades and decades of lead legacy in Port Pirie. We are determined to fix this. We are going to fix it. We are doing a much better job than the previous government.

* The Hon. D.C. VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart—Minister for Energy and Mining) (16:04): I seek leave to make a personal explanation.

Leave granted.

The Hon. D.C. VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: In question time today, when talking about the TLAP program, I said that we had already completed the cleaning of 13 houses. I need to correct the record: it is actually five houses.

The Hon. G.G. BROCK (Frome) (14:26): I have a supplementary question. Minister, I welcome the $2½ million. It's a bit strange that that wasn't offered previously. However, one of the questions I need to understand is—

Members interjecting:

The SPEAKER: Order!

The Hon. G.G. BROCK: —with the sealing of the rooms, etc., which is terrific, are you looking at assisting those households with watering their lawns and gardens to actually reduce the lead even further?

The Hon. D.C. VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart—Minister for Energy and Mining) (14:26): Thank you very much for that question. Yes, I agree with the member for Frome that it's a terrible shame that these sorts of programs were not offered previously. It is absolutely shameful that the previous government and the TLAP program that the previous government, including the member Frome, instituted did not do those things. With regard to outdoor areas, yes, absolutely we are doing it. I am very pleased to have some more time to explain some of the other things that we are doing.

For example, on Friday last week I visited a house in Port Pirie with a fantastic young family. This program provided a brand-new pergola over the backdoor play area immediately outside the back of that house. We had new artificial turf on the ground immediately outside the house so that there wouldn't be dust coming up from what was previously essentially a dust and weed sort of garden according to the person who lived there.

That artificial turf has been extended outside the pergola area so that there is a very large play area for the people who live in this house and, importantly, the young boy who lives in this house to be able to use. The front garden and the rest of the back garden have been completely refurbished, with a top layer of dust and weeds taken away and gravel put down so that less and less dust is able to come up and get into the air around the house and, importantly, not get into the house.

One of the very important things that we are doing with this project is that every one of the 43 houses gets its own tailored upgrade. This is not a cookie-cutter approach. Every single house gets looked at: what would be best for this house, what would be best for that house. For example, I mentioned the replacement of carpet with linoleum. This particular house did not have carpet, so we didn't replace it as it already had linoleum. But what was evident was that the area where the child and the mother played outside the back door was a real risk site, so we changed that for them.

In another house it might well be gardening, watering and greening in the front or back garden. This particular home had quite a significant array of pot plants in the undercover pergola area near the back door, so that was already being taken care of. But in another house it might well be that reticulation, watering and greening—exactly the types of things that the member for Frome is clearly disappointed were not achieved when the previous government had the opportunity to do all these things. We are doing these things.

Let me be very clear: there is also more to come. We have more good news to come on this program. I am very pleased that those opposite are listening to this information, that they are not interrupting, because this is some of the most important work that we could be doing. It would not matter whether it were in the CBD of Adelaide, in suburban Adelaide, in Port Lincoln, in Mount Gambier, in Port Pirie or Oodnadatta: this is some of the most important work that any government could be doing on behalf of families and young people.

We know that Port Pirie and the surrounding region is an absolutely outstanding part of our state—fantastic people, a fantastic regional centre, fantastic tourism opportunities, a fantastic surrounding regional agricultural area—and we are determined, absolutely determined, that this important part of our state gets every opportunity to break away from well over 100 years of legacy pollution.

This is work we are doing to fix what happened 130 years ago, 100 years ago, 50 years ago—and, yes, we are also fixing things that were not done over the previous 16 years before we came into government.