Kevin Humphries

OPEN LETTER TO THE RESIDENTS OF BROKEN HILL

12 February 2018

Dear residents of Broken Hill.

As of this week, 27 locals from Broken Hill and Wentworth have been employed with the commencement of the Wentworth to Broken Hill Pipeline. The target number employed in coming months will be 150 locals out of a total project which will see up to 500 people employed over the next 12 months, at various locations along the pipeline route including Wentworth.  Approximately 1500 steel pipes have been delivered into the area which is approximately 7.5% of the total; all Aussie steel coming from our mills. It is anticipated that at least $3 million will be spent on training and at least $50 million will be injected into the local economy during construction. Many businesses and employees have seen the benefit of this project already.
 
Much has been said about the cost to the end user which is fair enough. The process is clear. IPART or the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, are the entity charged with making pricing recommendations to the Government in relation to water for both domestic and industrial consumption.  Broken Hill and Essential Water were due for a water pricing review later this year. With the Pipeline project this review has been brought forward with consultation across the local community about to formally commence.  For some of my less informed colleagues at the state and local level, IPART under legislative requirements, have to consider capacity to pay in any review and recommendations, no matter where the location in the state. To say that the full cost of the pipeline will be directly passed onto the Broken Hill community is ridiculous and seriously misleading.  

The current Menindee pipeline which commenced construction in 1946, is coming to the end of its life. It was earlier recognised that this project was beyond the financial capacity of the Broken Hill Water Board (BHWB). The project was actively driven by the mining companies as severe water shortages could adversely affect production and possibly interrupt mining operations. A Deficit Funding arrangement was worked out for a Water Fund so the scheme would be subsidised by the then 4 mining companies, Western NSW Electric Power (CPS) and the Treasury (Government). The Menindee Pipeline is already heavily subsidised by Essential Water – a state owned corporation. It is anticipated and indeed has always been the expectation, that the Wentworth to Broken Hill pipeline will also be heavily subsidised by the NSW State Government.  

Broken Hill City Council, do not operate water or sewerage utilities; in fact Tibooburra Village and Wilcannia local authorities have much more responsibility in this area than Broken Hill City Council. Comments by some members of the local council reflect a very poor understanding of both operational and pricing practice when it comes to utility operations. In some sense this is understandable, given the fact they have no experience. It is their responsibility however to get informed!

Bobbie Hardy published a book in 1968 called “Water Carts to Pipelines: the history of Broken Hill water supply”. It’s a great read for every local particularly before making comment in light of today’s developments. For seventy years Broken Hill was plagued by in-fighting, lack of co-operation when it came to planning, false hope and lack of finance to develop a local reliable water supply.  The Lakes development alleviated this problem to a large extent. It should be noted that even after the Menindee pipeline was built, local water issues have still remained a problem roughly every five years – this was taking place well before any up-river development which has been severely capped over the last 10 years. It was clear that if the community had the money over previous decades as indicated by Bobbie Hardy, the Broken Hill water supply would have come from the far more reliable Murray River – one of the more sensible things the South Australians did when supplying their rural communities.
 
Eighteen options were canvassed in a study and a series of workshops which commenced in 2014-15 to solve Broken Hill’s water supply issues. Current council members were in attendance at many of these workshops but remain currently mute on the recommendation and outcome. You wonder why I have little time for these people.
 
Broken Hill’s water supply has nothing to do with the Lake system, water skiing, water views, end of system flows into South Australia, downstream water users, upstream water issues, cultural issues, weirs, conspiracy theories including politics and elections.  It is simply about securing the best affordable water supply for the city so people can get on with their lives, improve their local amenity and secure industry demand which means jobs and hopefully renewed growth. That’s it. Every other issue remains a distraction.
 
The Wentworth to Broken Hill Pipeline is being constructed simply because it is the right thing to do and as a State M.P., I have been part of a constructive government that has made the savings and provision to do it. Construction has started with clear and grade earthworks and pipe will be laid in the southern section soon. The target by the construction team is to have it completed by the end of the year.
 
I will be watching the IPART process carefully, particularly noting those engaging constructively in the process including industry, council, local business and householders. I urge all interested parties to be involved.
 
Lastly I am looking forward to the next chapter of Bobbie Hardy’s story. It will as history shows, be kind to those who stood up for Broken Hill and critical of those who stood in the way of its progress.

Yours sincerely

KEVIN HUMPHRIES, MP
Member for Barwon

Narrabri Electorate Office

Phone: (02) 6792 1422
Facsimile: (02) 6792 1466

Postal Address
60 Maitland Street
PO Box 345
Narrabri  NSW 2390

 

Cobar Electorate Office

Phone: (02) 6836 3722
Facsimile: (02) 6836 3811

Postal Address
11 Barton Street
PO Box 99
Cobar NSW 2835

Broken Hill Electorate Office

Phone: (08) 8087 3315
Facsimile: (08) 8087 1796

Postal Address
1/142 Argent Street
Broken Hill 2880