We have housing affordability issues in Sydney, we have electricity prices increasing and the last thing the people of Broken Hill need is unaffordable water. I am very concerned that water, which is an essential service, will be unaffordable to many families and pensioners. IPART must take people’s cost of living into consideration with regard to pricing.
At the start of May I visited Broken Hill and met with residents of the region. While there I attended Agfair Broken Hill, which has been held every two years since 1990. It is a community non-profit organisation which relies upon volunteers and surrounding districts.
Agfair Broken Hill estimates that it brings approximately $1.5 million to the Broken Hill economy. Over two days, up to 10,000 patrons are able to visit 300 exhibitors. During Agfair Broken Hill, I met and engaged with residents from Broken Hill and Western New South Wales—and half of The Nationals—to hear their concerns.
Residents consistently raised their fear that the Wentworth to Broken Hill pipeline will make water unaffordable to many people, especially pensioners or other vulnerable groups. I acknowledge that some residents support this pipeline as it will help secure a water source for the residents of Broken Hill and create jobs for the region.
Broken Hill and the surrounding area have suffered in previous droughts and need a reliable source of clean water. Due to poor local consultation and the business case for the project not being supplied by the New South Wales Government, the pipeline has been hit with a lot of criticism that needs to be addressed.
A balance must be struck.
We must ensure farmers have access to water which will allow them to continue their livelihood and acknowledge they are vital contributors to the New South Wales economy while also ensuring local residents have access to affordable water and confidence in the long-term health of Lake Menindee. Unfortunately, illegal extractions upstream have severely damaged the community's confidence. We must do better.