The Daily Telegraph
January 24, 2019
After years in mothballs the button to fire-up the Sydney desalination plant is likely to be flicked on.
The plant is now almost 10 years old, built when Australia was in the middle of a once-in-a-100-year drought. Back then dam levels had dropped to 34 per cent, and a wave of desal-mania swept the nation, with plants going up in every mainland state — in some cases to lay dormant for years.
The Sydney plant is expected to supply about 1.75 gigalitres of water to Sydney consumers each week. It will take some pressure off our dams, but it doesn’t come cheap.
Under Labor, the people of NSW forked out about $1.9 billion for the plant — up from an original price tag of $1.3 billion — and another $1.7 billion since, just to keep the plant in mothballs.
The biggest problem with the desal plant was not the plant itself, or even the strain of the ongoing cost.
The biggest problem was the way this self-aggrandising, multi-billion- dollar monument was used to obscure Labor’s total mismanagement of Sydney’s water infrastructure.
Labor might have built a desal plant, but they couldn’t for the life of them get the basics right.
It was under Labor that Sydney suffered through unprecedented cryptosporidium and giardia drinking-water safety scares, and it was under Labor that wasteful water leakage was rife throughout the system.
It was under Labor that water prices rose more than 50 per cent in NSW during its last five years in office. And it was under Labor that Sydney and Wollongong residents have the miserable honour of suffering the second-highest water and wastewater bills of any major city in Australia
Unsafe, wasteful and costly — this was the chaos hidden beneath the surface of the then-shiny, new, soon-to-be-mothballed desal plant, and it generated hip-pocket pain for residents right across NSW.
After eight years of Coalition government, things could not be more different.
Today our water is safer, with no major health issues in eight years.
We’ve made huge strides improving water efficiency, reducing leaks and increasing recycling, saving more than 250 gigalitres since 2011 — equivalent to almost three years’ output from the desal plant.
And the good news for Sydney households is that over the past four years, water prices have actually gone down, and not just by a bit: bills have reduced in real terms by more than $100 a year today compared with when Labor left office.
In fact, Sydney now has the lowest water bills of any major city across Australia.
That’s the way it should be, and it’s the kind of outcome you can only get from a government that is dedicated to managing public finance and utilities responsibly.
It’s another example of the fundamental difference between Labor and the Liberals and Nationals: while Labor focuses on grand symbolic gestures that cost taxpayers an arm and a leg, we will never shirk the hard yards to deliver better services at a lower cost for the people of our state.