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City needs to make pipeline stance known

Thursday, 19th May, 2016

By Andrew Robertson

Broken Hill needs to send “a clear message” to the State government that it either wants a pipeline from the Murray or not, according to State MP Kevin Humphries.

The Member for Barwon made the comment as he prepares to gauge the level of community support for all three options to secure the city’s water supply in the long term.

A survey will be mailed out in the next week asking householders to number the options, which are currently being considered by the government, in order of preference.

The government has set aside $500m to fund the successful project and is nearing the end of a months’ long process to identify the water fix.  

Mr Humphries yesterday promised the government would heed the results of the survey, despite it being taken less than two months before a decision is expected to be announced.

The MP has long been an advocate for a pipeline from the Murray at Wentworth, saying it is the most secure of the three options under consideration.

The others are a pipeline from South Australia at Jamestown, or the continued use of the Menindee Lakes supplemented with bore water in times of emergency.

“The budget will be handed down in late June, so you want to make sure any announcement we make ... is reflective of what people want,” Mr Humphries said.

“The community’s got to send a clear message to the government.

“They either want a $400 million pipeline to secure up their water or not, it’s as simple as that.”

He also said he would release the results of the survey, which will be mailed out to residents in Broken Hill and Menindee.

“I’ll be putting all the surveys in a time capsule and keeping it here in Broken Hill for now and into the future, so people can refer back and see what happened, why was this decision made (and) who were the people that backed it.”

The former minister rejected a suggestion residents would be able to make a more informed decision if they had access to the business cases of the three options.

“You’re just going to confuse the issue and you’re going to drag it out longer.

“People don’t want to know that; they just want to turn on their tap and know they’ve got a secure water supply.”

He also urged people to try and not link the issue of the city’s water security with the Darling River, saying the two needed to be thought of in isolation.

“This is purely about the city’s water security, end of story.

“To think this part of the Darling River is reserved for Broken Hill and Menindee just isn’t the fact. It doesn’t work that way, it never has.”

Competing demands on the increasingly unreliable river was the very reason why the pipeline to Wentworth was the logical solution for the city, he said.

That and the fact the aging Menindee pipeline will itself have to be replaced within 10 years.

“Why would you go and spend $180-$200 million replacing the Menindee pipeline as it currently stands when really you’re no better off?

“This is an intergenerational decision. People need to be a part of it. “Everybody should have their say and feel that they should be a part of what I think will be hopefully quite an historical decision for the community.”

Labor spokesman Mick Veitch said Mr Humphries was asking Broken Hill to make a choice with its eyes closed. 

“The Government still hasn’t released its business case for a pipeline and yet he’s asking them to decide their future based on a nice picture, a few words and three options.

“There is more to good government than getting people to tick a box and make a decision for you.”

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