Thursday 17 April 2008
Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, I am back in the old routine - and with a good old favourite subject, too:  silt in the Tamar.  I recently have been canvassing the possibility of a select committee inquiry into the Tamar estuary, not just in respect of silt in the upper Tamar basin.  I believe that we need to look at the estuary as a whole, not just bit by bit.  I have written about a possible committee to, among others, the Federal member for Bass, the relevant State minister and the Launceston City Council.

Mr President, I have long believed that we need to look more closely at the problems of the Tamar estuary.  Soon after I was elected to this House I called for a comprehensive study and that drew criticism from some who argued that there had been enough studies.  Opinion now seems to be firmly behind a new study.  The Launceston City Council wants one, and Brendan Nelson visited recently and recommended the Federal Government spend money on a study - interesting. 

It has become obvious that something has to be done about the problems of the upper Tamar basin, and it needs to be done sooner rather than later.  The basin is synonymous with the worsening silt problem, but the problems go far beyond that.  We have recently had concerns about the high bacterial levels, so high that people have been warned to keep out of the water and, in fact, a planned sporting event was under threat until the Hydro agreed to flush water down the Cataract Gorge from the Trevallyn Dam.  This thoughtful gesture, of course, has been welcomed.

It seems that only a few hours of strong flow can clear the bacterial build-up, and it might be something to put on the agenda on a regular basis - three or four times a year, or maybe more often.  This of course raises the question of why the flow down the gorge is not fast enough to continually flush bacterial build-ups from the upper Tamar basin.  The Hydro has long denied that the Trevallyn Power Station diversion contributes to the silt problem in the basin, but perhaps it contributes to the bacterial problem.  As far as the silt is concerned, there have been calls for various studies.  More relevantly there have been calls for some sort of body to take control and replace UTRIA - the Upper Tamar River Improvement Authority.  These are justified calls, Mr President.  UTRIA did a great job but the problems of the estuary are wider than just the upper Tamar.  The whole Tamar estuary and its catchments have to be taken together.  We need to look at the whole of the estuary, not bit by bit.  It could well be a select committee would recommend a statutory body to look at and manage the Tamar Valley from Low Head to the Trevallyn Dam and indeed up its contributing waterways to the very streams and creeks which contribute water and other materials to the Tamar estuary.  The statutory body to do this, whatever it costs to run from year to year, will ultimately be cheaper than fixing a Tamar disaster perhaps like 1929, when it inevitably happens. 

Let us have some preventive maintenance for the Tamar estuary.  Let us correct the problems that have arisen from a lack of maintenance and planning in the past.  Let us plan informatively to manage the whole Tamar estuary.   A statutory body, Mr President, could have a chief executive officer who is well versed in engineering, science and hydrology.  All three tiers of government, particularly local government, could have easy access as would the public, who should feel their contributions are being noted more than their constant letters to the Editor of the Examiner.  But I stress, we are not talking about the Tamar Valley piecemeal, we are looking at the whole estuary and its catchments as a whole and I believe a statutory authority would be in an ideal position to do this.

Mr PRESIDENT - The honourable member is entitled to take a special interest in this matter because the whole of the silt is within his electoral boundaries.

Members laughing.

Mr FINCH - Thanks for reminding me, Mr President.  It is mine, all mine.