Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (11:48): I rise to speak to this Coorong Environmental Trust Bill and concur with the words of the minister in regard to this: we do not want superfluous legislation. I commend Minister Speirs and his department for the work they have been doing, working in partnership with the Coorong Partnership group, with former Premier Dean Brown as chair, and looking at the different options in regard to making sure that, especially with the southern lagoon of the Coorong, that highly salinated section of the Coorong can be freshened up.
I know from talking to locals and what has happened over time that sediments from as far away as Queensland have flowed down through the river system and slowly added sediments to the lakes, to the Coorong area, especially to the narrow points like Parnka Point, where the northern lagoon and the southern lagoon connect, and this has really restricted the flow into the southern lagoon.
I know that certainly the Coorong Partnership group are doing a lot of investigatory work on how to freshen up the southern lagoon because it is necessary to look at these things. I know they are looking at dredging. They were looking at redirecting more of the South-East flows towards the Coorong. Several years ago, there was also the interconnector that was budgeted at about $20 million, I believe, from Lake Albert to the northern lagoon to allow a freshwater flow to run from Lake Albert into that northern lagoon.
I am not a scientist, but in my mind that would be something that should be moved forward. In fact, I think it should be done, as long as the environmental impact studies stack up under the rules of a Ramsar site and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act) of the federal government. I think that would be beneficial in a range of ways, including keeping Lake Albert fresh.
The issue we saw during the Millennium Drought was that the lakes dried up and there was a catastrophe in the lower end of the river. We saw the river drop two metres and Goolwa become a dust bowl. It was very, very tragic. While I am talking about the Millennium Drought, one thing I will give the Greens—and I do not agree with the Greens very often at all—is that they are consistent, and you cannot give the same credit to the Labor Party. The Labor Party seem to have an epiphany that all of a sudden they are interested in the health of the River Murray and the Coorong.
Mr PEDERICK: No. I was here as the local member for the lower reaches of the river below Blanchetown during the Millennium Drought. In fact, I was the shadow parliamentary secretary and then the shadow minister for the River Murray, working alongside my good friend the former member for MacKillop, the shadow minister for water at the time, and the party in advocating for a freshwater recovery for the lakes and Coorong. We worked hard and we managed to push that along and thankfully that is where we got to in the end.
However, this was after the environmental vandalism of the Labor Party of this state in seeking to build a weir at Wellington, which would have just destroyed the lower end of the river. About half my electorate below Wellington would have been destroyed and turned into a salty marshland and not be the freshwater situation that has been there for well and truly a millennium, since the lakes and Coorong have been in existence.
It goes beyond belief that the Labor Party have had an epiphany and all of a sudden think, 'Yes, this is a great thing. We will look after the Coorong.' Where were they 15 years ago? Where were they 14 years ago? Where were they 13 years ago? Where were they 12 years ago? They were in here and everywhere advocating for the demise of the Coorong and the Lower Lakes.
Ms Bedford interjecting:
Mr PEDERICK: Absolutely. It was a totally destructive situation, where they would have built a $200 million weir at Wellington, which would have sunk a metre a year by the way, and it would have cleaned out all the rocks in the Upper South-East and probably the Lower South-East over time. It got that tetchy, if that is the word, with negotiations with the owners of the properties on either side of where the river flows into Lake Alexandrina just south of Wellington between Wellington Lodge and Nalpa Station that the minister at the time, the former member for Chaffey, Karlene Maywald, almost went to compulsory acquisition.
I attended the Public Works Committee when the roadworks were authorised to be made—which were made and the approach works for those roads were all built so that that Wellington weir could be built.
Mr Whetstone: Through Wellington Lodge.
Mr PEDERICK: Yes, through Wellington Lodge and through Nalpa Station, much to the disgust of those owners. Not only that, we saw several bunds put in down at the bottom end, at Currency Creek at Clayton, and thousands and thousands of tonnes of dirt put into the system.
So we have the Labor opposition, who when they were in government just wanted to destroy the bottom of the river. As I said, at least the Greens are consistent, I will give them that. I had this conversation with the former MLC the Hon. Mark Parnell, that if construction had started on the Wellington weir we probably would have been chained to the same bulldozer, and that would have been something to see, I can tell you.
We have been consistent on this side, and the local members have been consistent, in advocating for the health of the River Murray. Whether it is the member for Chaffey, me, the member for MacKillop, the member for Finniss, everyone wants to see the right outcome, but we do not need duplication. We need to make sure that we can maximise the Murray-Darling Basin Plan where thousands of gigalitres of water are being delivered back to the system.
From my tours of the southern Murray-Darling Basin and the northern Murray-Darling Basin, I certainly believe that so much work can be done in modernising and efficiencies. In fact, I am confident that the uplift of the 450 gigalitres could be found in modernising irrigation systems across the basin. We have been champions at modernising irrigation in this state since the 1960s, and we have been consistent in doing more work in modernising irrigation efficiences—not just by managing the small number of channels we have but by putting in line channels—and in the way in which irrigation is delivered to vines and trees, all for the sake of maximising water use efficiency.
I fully applaud the actions being taken by the department, the minister and the Coorong Partnership. Their work should go on unimpeded in making sure that we get the right outcome for not just the Coorong but the Lower Lakes. I certainly believe that the interconnector between Lake Albert and the northern lagoon should be built pending scientific investigation because it would save some of the flushing action, where people try to dilute the salt in Lake Albert with hundreds of gigalitres of water, trying to get it in and out of the neck at Narrung. So let's make sure we get the right outcome.