NSW Labor is demanding the Government prioritise water security after a damning Auditor-General’s report revealed it failed to act or properly support communities before and during the drought.
The Audit Office report exposed years of inaction, broken promises and mismanagement on water policy which resulted in drought-stricken towns almost running out of water.
- The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment has not effectively supported or overseen town water infrastructure planning in regional NSW since at least 2014
- The Government lacked a strategic, evidence-based approach to target investments in town water infrastructure
- The Government gave commitments in 2011 and 2014 they would invest in regional town water supply, but failed to deliver
- It wasn’t until mid-way through the recent drought, in 2018, that the Government involved itself in local water delivery
- Up to $5 billion will be needed over the next 10 years to upgrade water supply infrastructure to deal with the changing climate
- The Shadow Minister for Water Clayton Barr said the report shows how Sydney-centric the Government is.
“This Government has put new roads, tunnels and stadiums in Sydney ahead of the needs of rural and regional NSW. It failed to take action on important commitments it made on water supply and the impact on communities has been absolutely devastating,” Mr Barr said.
“Dozens of communities were on the brink of running out of water. Even larger regional cities like Tamworth, Armidale, Dubbo and Bathurst came perilously close to a ‘day zero’ in which they would have been unable to supply water to their communities and may have eventually required evacuation.
“Residents suffered painful skin irritations and ill-health as a result of poor water quality. The town of Uralla at one point had high concentrations of arsenic in their drinking supply, forcing the entire town on to bottled water.
“We can’t let this happen again. Just because rain has arrived in some parts of the State doesn’t mean the problem is solved. The Government needs to be proactive, not reactive when it comes to water security.”
The Shadow Minister for Local Government Greg Warren said the report also highlighted the shameful lack of consultation with Councils.
“Ignoring local communities can no longer be the norm. It’s simply disgraceful that this Government is picking its own pet projects, without rhyme or reason, and making decisions without local involvement. An approach like this goes against every logic of good government.”