Independent senator Rex Patrick has slammed SA Water’s chosen site for the Eyre Peninsula’s desalination plant in a recent senate meeting, saying nothing has been done about the region’s water security for 13 years.

Key points:

  • Rex Patrick says governments have sat on a project to ensure the peninsula’s water security since 2008
  • He is backing several industries opposed to SA Water’s chosen desalination plant location in Port Lincoln
  • SA Water says there is reduced recharge of local groundwater and community engagement is ongoing

“Back in 2008, a draft plan looking at the Eyre Peninsula’s water problems was released by the then state minister of water security, Karlene Maywald — it was foreshadowed that a desal plant was to become part of the solution,” Senator Patrick said.

Senator Patrick said he requested a report under Freedom of Information (FOI) that revealed the need to reduce pumping groundwater from the Uley South Basin, which has been the predominant water source for Port Lincoln.

“Groundwater levels have declined, and the report makes it clear that we need to get a solution sometime in the next three years — we need to build a desal plant.”

Location angst

It is the location of the much-needed desalination plant which has caused a stir among several local industries.

Several aquaculture industries in particular are concerned about the site’s proximity to surrounding aquaculture farms, and the plant’s potential hypersaline water that would be flushed into surrounding shallow bays. 

An on-water protest at Port Lincoln over the proposed site.(Supplied: Mark Thomas)

“SA Water quickly announced they are moving to Proper Bay as the site, in the face of mounting public pressure and significant resistance, instead of continuing with their consultation,” Senator Patrick said.

Swipe at state candidate

Senator Patrick took a swipe at Sam Telfer, the Liberal candidate who hopes to follow in the footsteps of Peter Treloar as the Member for Flinders at the next state election. 

“To the incoming candidate for Flinders — you need to start standing up for the people of Port Lincoln or you will not be in the South Australian parliament after the election.” 

But Mr Telfer said Senator Patrick was playing political games and trying to prove his own relevance after visiting Port Lincoln for “a day”. 

“I’ve been working closely with industry and community throughout the whole process,” Mr Telfer said.

Sam Telfer says he has been working closely with industry on the issue.(ABC Eyre Peninsula: Samantha Jonscher)

“There needs to be more comprehensive science and data put into the SA Water decision-making, and we need to have clearer information on how they came to this decision.”

A spokesperson for SA Water said community engagement would continue throughout the detailed planning and construction phases.