Greens in Parliament: Statement Opposing the Gutting of Water Quality Protections in Sydney

Today the Government used a confected crisis around Mount Piper power station's coal supply to sneak through laws that will gut protections for the quality of Sydney's drinking water. Read our statement in Parliament opposing these changes. 


Ms JENNY LEONG ( Newtown ) ( 18:08 :00 ): I thank the Minister for allowing me the opportunity to speak on the Environmental and Planning Assessment Amendment (Sydney Drinking Water Catchment) Bill 2017. Perhaps the Minister was aware that, had the opportunity for me to speak on behalf of The Greens and the community of Newtown been denied, it may have caused a furore in the community of Newtown and other communities that have issues with this bill. My colleague Jamie Parker has outlined our concerns about the bill. It is important to go back to the basics when we look at this bill, which is about cutting protections for Sydney's drinking water, supporting coalmining and supporting big developers and big business. The law currently says that any development in Sydney's drinking water catchment area must be either neutral or beneficial to the quality and quantity of water.

This legislation guts that protection by ensuring that the baseline used for assessing the neutral or beneficial test for any extensions to existing developments will no longer be the health of the catchment but the impact of the existing development on the catchment. We are talking about introducing legislation that will allow coalmines such as Springvale and other developments to make changes that will cause a negative benefit, thus polluting our water catchment. Currently the neutral or beneficial test is applied. These changes will impact negatively on our water supply. This is not about energy security or the future of the Mount Piper power station. Environmentalists are not pushing for the mine to be closed; they are pushing to stop the pollution and to expedite the construction of the pipeline and the water treatment plant.

This legislation is not about energy security or the future of Mount Piper power station; it will penalise new and environmentally sensitive developments rather than older and more polluting developments. Sydney's drinking water will be polluted as a result of the changes that will be made by this legislation. Labor will be moving amendments to this legislation but if those amendments are not successful a future Labor government will make those changes. I hope to be able in the future to hold any Labor government to account. I look forward to that day. In a briefing provided earlier, 4nature, a key environmental group involved in this issue, said that the Court of Appeal found that the Planning Assessment Commission should never have approved the proposed Springvale coalmine expansion.

The Land and Environment Court is due to hold hearings next week on 16 and 17 October. Given that both the mine and the power station have stockpiles of coal, the rate at which this coal will be burned by the power station and any options for sourcing coal from other places will be crucial. The Government's announcement that it will give approval to Springvale via special legislation comes ahead of the court's final decision on the matter. Moreover, instead of ensuring that the Springvale coalmine complies with the law that protects the quality of our water flowing into Warragamba Dam, the Government has promised to weaken that law for all mines in the future. In July 2017 Mr Jeremy Buckingham my Greens colleague in the other place and Mr Adam Bandt, The Greens member for Melbourne, toured the Mount Piper power station and met with the mayor of Lithgow. They held a meeting with hundreds of residents and talked to them about the need for a transition plan for coal communities such as Lithgow. Last Saturday in Camperdown in the Newtown electorate hundreds of people gathered and used their bodies to spell out the words "Stop Adani". That was one of many communities that gathered to support the "Stop Adani" campaign.

Mr David Elliott: Did they stop using electricity as a result?

Ms JENNY LEONG: I acknowledge the Minister's interjection. He asked me whether or not the community has stopped using electricity. One day our State will transition to renewable energy. We need a transition plan to move away from dirty and polluting coal. We must invest in renewable energy and stop propping up polluting industries. The Government, supported in part by the Labor Opposition, is introducing legislation that will result in the pollution of our drinking water. It is unclear why there is a need for this legislation. The Premier and the Leader of the Opposition visited a certain place in an attempt to be the first ones to commit to legislation that would result in the pollution of Sydney's drinking water. Government members and Opposition members will be supporting legislation that will result in the pollution of Sydney's drinking water, which is unacceptable. The Greens oppose this legislation. We do not want to see new or existing coalmines polluting our drinking water supply. We want the Government to invest in renewable energy and address the dangerous impact of polluting coal on climate change.


Sign up for updates