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Water Quality in Towns

4 June 2015
Ms O'CONNOR to MINISTER for PLANNING and LOCAL GOVERNMENT, Mr GUTWEIN
   
[10.18 a.m.]
You are aware that across Tasmania there are communities who were told not to drink their water because it is not safe or to boil it before drinking. Towns like Winnaleah, Whitemark on Flinders, Rossarden, Avoca - which has had cadmium detected in its water supply - and Pioneer, which has lead levels 22 times above Australian drinking water standards. In response to the fact that none of TasWater's 80 treatment plants comply with modern standards, in April you said:
   
 "As failure in this space affects all Tasmanians, should they...
 
- that is TasWater I presume -
   
 ...require assistance the State Government is obviously prepared to play its part."
   
Isn't it a fact, however, that your comments yesterday about TasWater's balance sheet mean you have now washed your hands of any responsibility for ensuring Tasmanians drink water that is safe, no matter where they live? You have washed yours hands of any responsibility for ensuring that ailing sewerage infrastructure is not potentially contaminating drinking water and shellfish growing areas. Is that the best you can do as Minister for Local Government to tell TasWater to go into hock to fix the state's crumbling water and sewerage infrastructure and take no responsibility for the quality of the water Tasmanians drink?
   
 
ANSWER
   
Madam Speaker, as it is a Local Government question, I take the opportunity to put on the record my condolences to Barry Jarvis' family. He was a good friend and I am shocked and deeply saddened by his passing. He will be sorely missed.
   
In regard to this question, many Tasmanians do not fully understand this yet. The water and sewerage corporations are owned by Local Government.
   
Opposition members interjecting.
   
Madam SPEAKER - Order. The Minister has the call; there should be silence.
   
Mr GUTWEIN - We have made it perfectly clear that failure in that space affects all Tasmanians, regarding their health and our broader brand and values. I have engaged with TasWater now over the last number of months and made it perfectly clear that we expect them to do their job. I have made that perfectly clear to the local government owners. I have also made it perfectly clear that should TasWater require assistance we are prepared to sit down and discuss with them what that assistance might look like. The door is open. We are engaged currently in a dialogue with TasWater about getting better outcomes.
   
TasWater has a very strong balance sheet and it should be utilising it to ensure it gets the outcomes we all want to see. The Local Government owners deserve a tick for this, they have already decided to reduce their dividends. In light of the challenges that we have in front of us TasWater should be using that very strong balance sheet to improve the outcomes for Tasmanians.
   
We have said the door is open, we understand that failure in this space affects all Tasmanians and we are prepared to work with TasWater. Local Government, as the owners of this corporation, have the responsibility to ensure that the corporation meets its objectives. We expect them to do that. They have sufficient capacity on their balance sheet to invest more. If they need assistance we will work with them.