Member for Mackillop assures SE community

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: SIXTEEN years ago I stood for the seat of MacKillop because I was concerned about decisions being taken over water management in the SE.

In the intervening years I have maintained my passion for our State's water resources and for many of those years have been the Opposition's spokesperson on water related issues.

This has involved the development of policies to harvest and reuse stormwater, policies concerning the River Murray and particularly policies concerning the impacts of drought, both to productive enterprises and the environment.

Member for Mackillop Mitch Williams.

Member for Mackillop Mitch Williams.

All of these issues have reinforced in my mind the importance of every drop of water in SA to the well-being of our environment and of our communities.

Over the last few months many people from the SE have contacted me expressing concerns that an unconventional gas industry might have detrimental impacts on the water resources of our region.

Many claims are seemingly based on reports on experiences in other parts of Australia and across the world. The concerns include the potential for wells to fail and the use of chemicals in the unconventional gas industry.

The "Roadmap for Unconventional Gas Projects in SA", readily available on the Department for Manufacturing, Innovation, Trade, Resources and Energy's website (or by Googling Roadmap for Unconventional Gas Projects in SA) sets out the process under which licenses for such activities must be applied for and assessed.

It is my understanding that the SE tenement holders would not be in a position to apply for a license under the process outlined in the aforementioned document to undertake unconventional gas activities for at least 18 months and more likely two years.

I have been made very much aware of the community's concerns. A number of people have expressed their desire to have a better understanding of the "unconventional gas" industry and particularly of any potential risks posed by such an industry in the SE.

They are saying to me that they "want to hear the facts".

With this in mind, along with Troy Bell, I have convinced our colleagues in the Liberal Party that we should not only ensure that the community is fully consulted but also fully informed.

Consequently the Liberal Party has announced, that if elected, it will charge a Parliamentary Committee with conducting a comprehensive inquiry into the unconventional gas industry in the context of the SE of SA.

Such an inquiry would enable any person in the SE to provide evidence of any concerns which they may hold, as well as call on experts, including those from industry and academia.

It is important to note that Parliamentary committees are responsible to the Parliament not the government of the day and generally have members from across the political divide including minor parties and independents.

The terms of reference invariably include a clause "or any other relevant matter" to ensure that the scope of the inquiry is not restricted.

It is my belief that such an inquiry would not only provide invaluable information to the Parliament but would also be an invaluable vehicle for the wider community to become fully informed on all relevant issues.

The Liberal Party has given an undertaking that if elected to Government on March 15 this year, the issuing of any unconventional gas license in the SE (a licence to allow a well to be fracked) will not be contemplated until the Parliamentary inquiry is completed.

I wish to assure the SE community that I will continue to take their views and concerns on board and that as a long term resident, water user and champion of the SE, will always work to protect the interest of the region, its communities and of course its unique and vital water resources.