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Twamley Dam and Prosser River Pipeline
Parliamentary Activity - Thursday, 17 October 2019
Dr WOODRUFF question to TREASURER, Mr GUTWEIN
In 2016 your Government loaned $6 million to the cash-strapped Glamorgan Spring Bay Council to construct the controversial Prosser River dam at Twamley in the middle of 50 hectares of endangered swift parrot habitat and a pipeline to run water to Tassal's fish farm in Okehampton Bay and a ludicrous Solis golf course proposal.
The council has just voted not to proceed with the Twamley dam or second stage of the pipeline, fearing a catastrophic debt burden. That was a courageous and clear-sighted decision to prevent taking ratepayers into penury. You signed off the original loan with negotiations conducted in secret between your agency and the previous mayor. Councillors at the time publicly called out the flawed process.
Water on the east coast is scarce and very precious. Regional climate heating models tell us it will continue to dry. This dam and pipeline proposal for the benefit of two water-squandering private companies should never have been considered. Now that the council as pulled the plug on the project, will you rule out giving any more public finance to the Twamley dam and Prosser pipeline process?
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her interest in this matter and the question. I have made this point very clearly before, and you understand this. The arrangements that the council entered into with Tassal were matters for the council to engage in.
Regarding the Twamley dam, the Government has not provided assistance to that dam; we have been through a process with the council, we have supported them and they have established a commercial arrangement with Tassal.
Dr Woodruff - It was a flawed process.
Mr GUTWEIN - If you want to take aim at the previous council, that is a matter for you. In terms of the current council, the Government is very engaged with the council and I have had a number of discussions with the mayor on this particular matter. Whilst the Government stands ready to work with the council, obviously they are working through a commercial arrangement with Tassal which, as I understand it, has a commercial imperative that water flows through that pipeline. It is perfectly reasonable for the mayor to have raised with Tassal that they provide additional funding to ensure that water can run through that pipeline.
My understanding is that once water flows through that pipeline, over a period of time, Tassal will meet all of the costs associated with that, including the interest costs and the capital repayment.
Dr Woodruff - They made $78 million last year. This is a terrible situation.
Mr GUTWEIN - I make the point that it is a commercial arrangement between the council and Tassal.
Ms O'Connor - Rule out public subsidies.
Madam SPEAKER - Dr Woodruff and Ms O'Connor, please listen to the answer.
Mr GUTWEIN - Obviously the mayor has raised her concerns about the Twamley dam with me. I have spoken with TasWater and asked them to engage with the council, which I understand they have, and bring to the table TI and the council and stakeholders to discuss what the requirements might be regarding that catchment moving forward. That is a sensible whole-of-government approach to take.
Dr Woodruff - Make sure Tassal pays for it - they want it, they pay.
Madam SPEAKER - Dr Woodruff, warning one.
Mr GUTWEIN - Again, you take aim at Tassal, which is providing jobs and investment in that community, something I understand is welcomed by that council. Yet you come into this place to play politics with a set of circumstances, albeit difficult, but I think with a pathway through, and you attempt to play politics, which is what you normally do.
Ms O'Connor - I beg your pardon? We are just asking a question.
Dr Woodruff - There's no water.
Mr GUTWEIN - As I have explained, Madam Speaker, the council has made its decision and that is entirely the right of council to do that.
Ms O'Connor - We're just doing our jobs. It's about water and public subsidies.
Madam SPEAKER - Order. Could I please stop this? No discussion across the Chamber.
Mr GUTWEIN - As I have explained, the Government has been engaged and TasWater has engaged with the council. My understanding is that they will bring Tas Irrigation and Tassal to the table and have a discussion about the broader challenges of that area and how they might solve this problem moving forward.
The politicking of the Greens is nothing more than that.
Dr Woodruff - We're standing up for the community. Someone has to do it.
Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker, under standing order 144. The Treasurer is using offensive words against us, accusing us of politicking when we are simply asking questions that are being asked in the community. This place is politics. What do you mean?
Madam SPEAKER - Could I have that standing order again? Was it 144?
Ms O'Connor - Yes, 144, offensive words against a member.
Madam SPEAKER - I think you are being overly sensitive and I rule it out.
Mr GUTWEIN - Madam Speaker, I think I accused the Greens of being politicians, to be frank. I do not know what your KPIs are, but certainly one of them would be frightening communities.
The mayor is working through this sensibly. The Government is engaged with the council. I am hopeful they can arrive at a commercial outcome between the council and Tassal. In terms of what occurs into the future, we have asked TasWater to engage with the council along with TI and other stakeholders with a view to looking at the needs of the broader catchment.