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Protection Needed for Peter Murrell Reserve

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 22 September 2016

Tags: TasWater, Biodiversity, Kingston, Extinction

Ms WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Speaker, the Peter Murrell Conservation Area in Kingston is facing the prospect of a new sewerage pipeline to be installed through it by TasWater to bring raw sewage from the Electrona, Snug and Margate areas to an upgraded treatment plant at Blackmans Bay.  The history of this pipeline is a matter of public record.  Public consultation on suitable routes started in 2013.  At the time a strong case was made against the pipeline running through the reserve, resulting in TasWater choosing a route that would have significant impact on residents in Howden.  There was a very poor consultation process undertaken which caused a significant amount of community concern and outrage.  TasWater then was required to undertake a more substantial community engagement, which they did.

In the last and final community workshop on appropriate routes for the TasWater upgrade to Electrona, Snug and Margate, TasWater presented five possible routes.  Two of them would affect residents in the Howden area and three would cross into the Peter Murrell Reserve.  Many people in the community voiced a view that the two different route options are effectively now setting the groups against each other, both of whom have serious concerns about the proposed routes.

The Howden residents who had a route to go through their area and the residents who want to protect the Peter Murrell Reserve joined together to put forward an alternative route that would avoid Howden altogether and skirt around the north of the reserve.  This route was called the 'black route' and TasWater agreed it was a feasible proposition.  Unsurprisingly, when TasWater issued a survey form, there was almost unanimous support for this black route and 93 per cent of respondents who made submissions gave it their first preference.  It seems clear that for the social licence and the concerns with the other routes that have been proposed, the black route is the one TasWater ought to consider on the basis of those reasons.  However despite this, TasWater's chief executive officer, with the approval of the board, has announced they have chosen a so-called 'blue route' which crosses through the Peter Murrell Reserve because the route was cheaper, required less infrastructure and therefore will ultimately be cheaper for TasWater.

Peter Jarman, president of Friends of the Peter Murrell Reserve, said in a Talking Point article in the Mercury that the most essential reason not to build this sewer across the reserve is that it does nothing for the declared purpose of the reserve, which is to protect and maintain the natural and cultural values of the area.  Mr Jarman challenges TasWater that unless the sewer can be shown to protect and maintain those values then that route has to be rejected.  TasWater's CEO responded to this in today's Mercury with a statement that TasWater's preferred route will benefit the nature reserve.  It commenced by identifying $2 million worth of savings which are not relevant to the protection and maintenance of the reserve's natural and cultural values. 

Mr Jarman said in his article that sewers under pressure can leak or fail catastrophically.  This may not be discovered for days, as happened in New South Wale's Nambucca State Forest in 2014.  Pipe failures in the suburbs are easier to detect, repair and clean up, but failure in a biodiversity reserves poses a much bigger problem.  It is not just the sewage but also the chemicals applied to a spill which contaminate surface and ground water and require massive removal of soil.  To knowingly risk such profound damage a reserve like the Peter Murrell Reserve is, in his words, arrogant. 

TasWater makes the case that the route will be subject to an independent environmental approval process and must comply with conditions and regulations before construction is permitted, but it needs to accept that the threshold contained in those processes will not necessarily make sure that the natural and cultural values of the reserve can be maintained.  TasWater has said they do not anticipate any loss of endangered species in construction but this is very difficult for them to substantiate, according to the Friends of Peter Murrell Reserve, given there is likely to be significant risk to species already threatened with extinction altogether from the construction processes proposed. 

The protection of the Peter Murrell Reserve and conservation area was part of the Tasmania Liberal Government's 1996 state election platform.