The State Labor Party announced in parliament last week its opposition to TasWater’s proposed website model to publish Tasmania’s drinking water data.
Scott Bacon, Shadow Treasurer, in his parliamentary speech on Tuesday, April 6, affirmed that the State Labor Party supports the real-time publication of drinking water data.
The Tasmanian Greens and the Tasmanian Labor Party are now on the public record, opposing TasWater’s model for data publication.
The website is the very least TasWater can do – literally ... The proposed model, which is planned to be activated this month, will publish only a fraction of all of Tasmania’s drinking water data. And the proposed model will not publish data in real-time, but rather, quarterly. A traffic-light design will publish notifiable data only – data that breaches a health guideline value – but all baseline data will be hidden from public view. (The definition of notifiable data is debatable, because for various slow-acting toxins such as lead (Pb), any result above the guideline value does not necessarily translate to an immediate alert by TasWater.)
Behind closed doors, away from the scrutiny of the owners of TasWater –Tasmania’s 29 local councils – this model for the website publication of Tasmania’s drinking water data has been approved, and it is ready to be launched online now.
The TasWater website model, which should, of course, represent every Tasmanian – from George Town in the north, to Cockle Creek, in the south; from Bicheno, in the East, to Strahan, in the West – was designed solely by TasWater.
The model, designed by the Water Quality Officer for TasWater, was sent for approval to the Water Quality Working Group, which comprised of three local council General Managers. This Water Quality Working Group was hand-picked by the CEO of TasWater, Mr Mike Brewster. The three General Managers are: Mr Arnold, of Kingborough; Mr Stretton, of Wynyard; and Mr Watson, of Dorset.
It is crystal clear that the results of the Water Quality Working Group were not communicated to Tasmania’s 29 local councils, who are the sole shareholders of TasWater.
Tasmania’s 29 councils were not advised of the specifics of the model. They were thus not allowed to provide input, nor were they granted the opportunity to object to the model.
The idea to develop a policy with regard to the publication of Tasmania’s drinking water data, began as a grassroots campaign and later became a successful motion at the State Conference of the Local Government Association of Tasmania.
This LGAT motion, of July 22, 2015, reads:
‘That LGAT write to the State government requesting that they make available to the public the testing results for all Tasmanian Town reticulated water systems.’
But the process followed by TasWater and LGAT to create the proposed model is clearly dysfunctional.
The General Management Committee (GMC) Board members of LGAT, who are elected to represent Tasmania’s 29 local councils, appear to have been unaware of the proposed model.
Ms. Christina Holmdahl, a member of the eight-Mayor GMC Board, and the Mayor of the West Tamar Council, was surprised to learn that she was kept out of the loop with regard to this issue. On March 30, 2016, Ms Holmdahl wrote to me:
‘It is correct that I know nothing of the work being done… following the motion that was passed at LGAT’s State Conference last July…’
And in her capacity as Mayor of the West Tamar Council, Ms Holmdahl wrote:
‘…my Council has not received any minutes of meetings held by that committee [the Working Committee of three local council General Managers, and Mr. XXX, of TasWater]…’
So it appears that Tasmania’s 29 local councils and the General Management Committee (GMC) Board at the Local Government Association of Tasmania (LGAT), were not notified of the process or content for the water data model – not at any level.
Further to this problem in process and notification, in the Dorset Council meeting of Monday, March 21, 2016, following my Deputation on this issue, Mr Tim Watson, General Manager and ‘co-author’ of TasWater’s water data model, admitted:
‘Mr. XXX [TasWater] brought the model to the three General Managers; we had a look at it, thought it looked alright, so we agreed to it’.
This is evidence that TasWater pre-prepared a model and then took it to the three General Managers for rubber-stamp approval.
The GMs did not contribute, and nor did they share the minutes of their meeting(s) with the councillors from the 29 councils.
Prior to this council meeting, Councillor Jessup confirmed to me that the Dorset Council was not notified about TasWater’s model, nor was the Dorset Council allowed the opportunity to contribute, or object.
This pattern of secrecy, with regard to this issue, appears to have been duplicated across each of Tasmania’s 29 councils.
But President of LGAT, Mr Doug Chipman, on March 2, painted a different picture. Mr. Chipman wrote to me:
‘I can advise that LGAT has undertaken strong representation in relation to the motion put forward by Dorset, with both Taswater and its Owners Representatives’ Group, that is the 29 Councils.’
At this stage, the responsibilities of the GMC Board at LGAT, in relation to TasWater, remain unclear. The GMC Board was asked, in writing, on multiple submissions, to provide clarification about its responsibilities in relation to TasWater. But, inexplicably, there has been no reply by the GMC Board or LGAT on this point.
It appears that the GMC Board do have some responsibilities with respect to TasWater. Although the CEO of LGAT, Ms Stephenson stated on March 24, 2016, they do not direct TasWater:
‘…LGAT has no power to direct TasWater… it really is a matter for TasWater and I have been advised that they have agreed a course of action with Owners [Tasmania’s 29 local councils] and are intending to implement.’
Furthermore, it is intriguing, to say the least, that in all of my many e-mail communications with the CEO and President at LGAT, never once was I referred to the Chief Representative of the Owner Councils for TasWater, Mr. David Downie. Indeed, it was only this very week, by a fortuitous accident, that I became aware of Mr Downie’s pivotal role within LGAT in relation to TasWater.
The CEO of LGAT, Ms. Stephenson, and the President, Mr Chipman, did not once refer me – never – to Mr Downie. Clearly, Mr Downie is the first person I should have been referred to.
In the latest issue of The Pulse, LGAT’s newsletter to local councils, Mr Downie is congratulated for his 2015 appointment to the role: this was my fortuitous accident.
But the pattern of obfuscation by LGAT appears to be mirrored by Mr Downie, too…
On April 2, I attempted to notify the 29 councils, via e-mail, of TasWater’s model (also to respond to comments by the CEO of LGAT, and to correct two procedural errors and misattributions that I had made in my communications with LGAT). One of the 29 local councils that I wrote to was, naturally, the Northern Midlands Council, of which Mr Downie is the Mayor. In his role as Mayor, Mr Downie did not reply in the first instance. Five-days later, on April 7, when I asked Mr Downie to confirm to me that he had forwarded my e-mail of April 2 to the councillors of the Northern Midlands Council – as I had requested of him – Mr Downie chose only to confirm that he had personally received my e-mail – not that he had forwarded my e-mail to councilors, as requested.
On April 8 I restated my specific request to Mr Downie, for him to specifically confirm that he had handed my e-mail to the councilors of the Northern Midlands Council. Mr Downie did not confirm this for me, and to date, as of April 12, Mr Downie has not confirmed to me that he forwarded my e-mail of April 2 to the councillors.
This is highly irregular council behaviour, and I can only assume that my e-mail to inform councillors about this issue has been withheld from them by Mr Downie. It would please me to be proved wrong on this point.
To this day, LGAT has not provided to me any explanation as to why at least one member of the eight-person GMC Board at LGAT, Ms Holmdahl, was unaware of any detail in relation to the work of LGAT on this model following their successful 2015 LGAT motion.
LGAT has neither confirmed, nor denied, that the other members of the GMC Board were not notified about the progress of this local council issue.
But Ms Holmdahl, GMC Board member, has confirmed to me that my letter to the President of LGAT, Mr Chipman, was not forwarded to her (and the other Board members?), as I had requested. My letter had politely asked, referencing failures in process, for an extraordinary meeting to be called, to review the model, and the process by which it was created.
I have received no direct reply from LGAT to my request that the GMC Board notify the 29 councils to call for a review of the model, and the process by which it was created.
GMC Board member, Ms Holmdahl, was also surprised to learn that my many written requests to LGAT, for a list of the GMC Board members – or that I be directed to this list – were variously ignored, confused, questioned or obfuscated. Ms Holmdahl, wrote to me:
‘I [did] express some surprise that you were not able to obtain the names of the LGAT GMC committee members from LGAT and that you had to resort to other avenues to obtain them…’
This list of names of the members of the GMC Board – a public board – was never provided to me. I was resigned to searching for the Board under my own steam…
[The Board members are: Doug Chipman, President (and Mayor of the Clarence City Council); Daryl Quilliam, Vice President (and Mayor of the Circular Head Council); Christina Holmdahl, Northern Region (and Mayor of The West Tamar Council); Sue Hickey, City of Hobart (and Mayor of the Hobart City Council); Jan Bonde, West and North-West Region (and Mayor of the Central Coast Council); Craig Perkins, Northern Region (and Mayor of the Meander Council); and, Deidre Flint, Southern Region (and Mayor of the Central Highlands Council).]
In the most recent issue of The Pulse (February 29), LGAT’s newsletter to local councils, there is no mention whatsoever of TasWater’s model for the publication of drinking water in Tasmania.
Right to Information requests have been served upon TasWater and LGAT by MP Andrea Dawkins of the Tasmanian Greens. These requests serve as further cause for TasWater and the GMC Board to place proceedings on pause.
A solitary response by the Board Chairman of TasWater, Miles Hampton, on March 11, 2016, reads:
‘As Board Chairman it is inappropriate that I should become involved in operational matters. Mr Brewster will respond in due course.’
But Tasmanian MLC, Tania Rattray, has weighed in on the move against TasWater’s proposed model. In her State-of-the-State address in parliament earlier this month, Ms Rattray said:
‘I will be taking up this matter with TasWater… to see if there is any way we can have a more timely reporting system…particularly when there have been issues with drinking water quality in some of those areas… Pioneer is one of the areas that I represent that have had their issues.’
TasWater’s proposed model for the publication of drinking water data, assumes a level of trust that Tasmanians are not willing to grant. And the disfigured process that has been used to develop the website model is further evidence for Tasmanians that they are right not to trust TasWater.
At Pioneer, in Tasmania’s north-east, residents have witnessed a snail’s pace roll-out of twenty-five rainwater tanks to remedy a lead-contaminated drinking water system. The project remains unfinished, three-years and four-months on from the alert in November, 2012…
During this time, TasWater has threatened residents with referral to a debt collection agency if their payment for lead-contaminated water is overdue, or if a resident refuses to pay, on moral grounds, for lead-contaminated water. One of my TasWater bills, issued on April 15, 2015, requests payment of $54.41 for lead-contaminated water. My TasWater bill reads:
‘Until the amount is paid in full…interest will be charged. TasWater may also: commence legal proceedings against you for the recovery of the outstanding balance on your account; refer your account to an external debt collection agency; or, disconnect or restrict the supply of water to your property.’
A study by Macquarie University in 2015, concluded that ageing infrastructure was the cause of lead-contamination in the drinking water at Pioneer. The Macquarie study proved that the lead-contamination in the drinking water at Pioneer did not originate from natural sources. TasWater declined to attend the public meeting at Pioneer wherein Macquarie University presented their results to the community.
TasWater’s 2014/15 net profit was $27 million – $5 million of which was banked. This super-profit is used to justify, and to employ, three Public Relations Officers. But only one part-time engineer has ever been employed to remedy the lead-contaminated drinking water system at Pioneer.
Alerts for lead (Pb) remain active in five Tasmanian towns: Pioneer, Rossarden, Winnaleah, Whitemark and Avoca.
I have on my desk today a 26-item Ombudsman’s report which must surely unlock the vault of Tasmania’s drinking water data for ever more. I have written this report in response to Pioneer’s three-year and four-month struggle for safe drinking water. My report will be submitted to the Ombudsman later this month.
The first item of my report outlines a prime historical example of a lead-contaminated drinking water system which went unannounced in Tasmania for nearly two years. This item in my report reads:
TasWater (then, Ben Lomond Water) did not call an alert for lead-contamination at Pioneer during the two years prior to the alert in November, 2012. Many samples during this time were assessed by Ben Lomond Water to exceed the health guideline value. Why was an alert not called earlier?
This is of fundamental relevance to TasWater’s proposed website model for the publication of Tasmania’s drinking water data.
Between 2010 and 2012, a theme of lead-contamination at Pioneer was recorded in the private data file at Ben Lomond Water (now, TasWater). Ben Lomond Water collected several water samples at Pioneer that exceeded the health guideline value for lead (Pb) – 10 ug/L. Ben Lomond Water was also aware that the history for lead (Pb) contamination at Pioneer prior to 2010 was completely unknown – data collection for lead (Pb) at Pioneer began in 2010. Ben Lomond Water was aware that this lack of historical knowledge strengthened the case to cautiously call an alert at Pioneer. But Ben Lomond Water did not call an alert at any time between 2010 and 2012; nor did they notify the residents of Pioneer.
Under this new proposed website model, most of the data for Pioneer between 2010 and 2012 would not be published. This baseline data would remain hidden from public view. As it was back then.
For lead (Pb), no fixed protocols or guidelines exist to direct TasWater to call an alert. (The) Water Quality Officer at TasWater, confirmed to me during a telephone conversation on March 11, 2016, as follows:
“…in relation to lead [Pb], two consecutive high readings are not a necessary prerequisite for us to call an alert [‘Do Not Consume’ advice]… a flexible approach is necessary…”
(He) also confided, when I asked him about Pioneer’s problems between 2010 and 2012, prior to the alert:
“At that time, Ben Lomond Water (now, TasWater) did not employ a Drinking Water Quality Officer. That would not happen now… I’m here now…”
Inherent within a ‘flexible approach’ is the possibility for danger to continue unannounced, as it did at Pioneer between 2010 and 2012. (His) statements, of fact and conjecture, will not instill confidence in the Tasmanian public, and indeed, (his) statements form to make a very strong case in favour of the real-time publication of all drinking water data.
A sincere website model might look something like this:
1) All data is published in real-time.
2) A complementary traffic-light design may be used to highlight notifiable data.
TasWater’s presently tests for: bacteria and parasites; disinfection by-products – DBPs and THMs (TasWater monitors 6 of a potential 700 known chemical by-products of chlorine); heavy-metals; and, pesticides.
If TasWater and LGAT aspire to be responsible caretakers – to learn from, and to show regret for, their mistakes of the past – they should immediately cancel their illegitimate website model.
TasWater’s main justification against the real-time publication of Tasmania’s drinking water data, is that the cost to run such a website would be too costly.
But in March, 2015, Director of Local Government, Mr Mike Blake, cited TasWater’s profit in 2014/2015 – $27 million – as reason enough to rate TasWater’s progress and performance as ‘very good’.
Cost is not the reason why TasWater refuses to publish, in real-time, all of Tasmania’s drinking water data. And TasWater’s cost-excuse is null-and-void, no matter its financial status, for TasWater already input Tasmania’s drinking water test results into their private computer database. Computer technology will see to it that, for a very minimal cost, the data from TasWater’s private database can be activated to a public website.
TasWater knows that this is child’s play…
Tasmanians are not asking for the impossible, and the CEO of TasWater is not being asked to walk on water: Mr Brewster can publish all of Tasmania’s drinking water data in real-time.
But insincerity, secrecy and incompetence, pervade all relations between TasWater, LGAT, the State government and the Tasmanian community.
Tasmanians have not been assisted by their Tasmanian State government…
In Budget Estimates on June 9, 2015, Tasmania’s Treasurer and Minister for Local Government, Mr Gutwein – with full knowledge of Pioneer’s alert for lead-contamination, which had at that time had been ongoing for two-years and seven-months – Minister Gutwein said:
“TasWater is getting on with the job at Pioneer!”
This comment by the Minister, in answer to questions by MP Cassy O’Connor, caused deep upset for the residents of Pioneer, Tasmania.
The Premier, Mr Will Hodgman has ignored all requests for a parliamentary inquiry into TasWater’s mishandling of Pioneer. Following an ABC 7.30 Report story about Pioneer’s battle, televised nationally on April 23, 2015, the Premier made his first and last public statement about TasWater’s unjustifiably slow delivery of 25 rainwater tanks to the residents at Pioneer. Premier Hodgman said:
“We can’t write a blank cheque.”
The Premier’s insincere public comments on this day caused barely a ripple, and the roll-out of rainwater tanks at Pioneer, to this day, is incomplete.
If actions speak louder than words, Tasmanians may deduce that Tasmania’s Premier and our Ministers are not interested in the quality of drinking water.
On March 16, 2016, in the Tasmanian parliament, Minister Gutwein was questioned by MP Andrea Dawkins, of the Tasmanian Greens, about TasWater’s proposed website model for the publication of drinking water data:
You are aware of ongoing issues with water infrastructure and water contamination in Tasmania, which was the motivation behind the unanimous motion, passed at last July’s LGAT AGM, to lobby the State government to legislate for the real-time publication of Tasmania’s drinking water data. Do you think it is acceptable that the proposed model for publication of real-time drinking water quality data is a traffic-light system, whereby only notifiable data is published, leaving all remaining data hidden? Is it acceptable to you that the model dictates this selected data will only be published quarterly? Will you make a representation to the Owner’s Representatives Group who may direct TasWater for a review into the proposed model and also the process by which it was created?
Madame Speaker, I think that falls more rightly with the Minister responsible for DPIPWE [Minister Rockliff].
Minister Gutwein did not respond to the question. For a moment, it appeared that the appropriate Minister had at last been located, but when he gave his answer, Minister Jeremy Rockliff talked about rivers and streams only, and he failed to mention drinking water at all – never-mind the proposed model for the publication of drinking water data.
Both Ministers misunderstood the question; and they both misunderstood it in precisely the same way. (If you wish to read Mr. Rockliff’s irrelevant comments, please refer to Hansard, March 16, 2016, for the full transcript.)
The government has made no correction to the Minister’s answer, and to date, this question from parliament has not been answered.
Nevertheless, on March 21, Minister Gutwein wrote to me:
‘…I have noted your concerns and will undertake to raise them with the relevant Minister as I’m unaware of any proposed model you mention.’
Minister Gutwein says he is unaware of the proposed model. Perhaps matters may have been more straight-forward for Minister Gutwein if the President of the Local Government Association of Tasmania, Mr Chipman, had not declined to forward my e-mails to the Minister. On March 4, 2016, Mr. Chipman wrote to me:
‘I will not be forwarding any of your emails to Minister Gutwein…’
And the Minister’s position is that this issue does not fall under his Ministerial portfolio. Minister Gutwein’s position appears to be false. Minister Gutwein does have some responsibilities for TasWater – and this, plainly, is a TasWater issue. Minister Gutwein is the Minister for Local Government – and this issue originates from an LGAT motion in July, 2015. And Minister Gutwein intervened last month in TasWater’s caveat issue in Lauderdale, Tasmania. (TasWater placed comprehensive caveats on the mortgages of several customers. The Minister intervened to reverse this action).
Notwithstanding all of this, Minister Gutwein does articulate the necessary criteria for the approval of a drinking water data model. Minister Gutwein, March 21, writes:
In the first instance, any proposed water data model would need the support of LGAT, TasWater and any relevant state government agency.’
The processes used for the development of this proposed model by the GMC Board of LGAT and TasWater appear to be dysfunctional, or, at best, unrepresentative of the Tasmanian community and Tasmania’s 29 local councils.
The logic of Minister Gutwein’s own advice is that the proposed model should not be allowed to proceed, for it is likely that the model does not have the legitimate support of LGAT.
Disappointingly, Minister Gutwein’s office advises that the Minister does not have time for an appointment to discuss this proposed – and soon to be activated – statewide model.
And Minister Gutwein has not offered to investigate the matter further, or to call for a review.
Minister Gutwein’s non-action contradicts the sentiments of his previous comments in the Tasmanian parliament, on June 9, 2015, when he said:
‘…it would be important, regardless of where you lived in the state, that you had some understanding of the quality of the water you are drinking.’
Policy and practice are so often found to be contradictory, at all levels of government in Tasmania.
In a public meeting in Scottsdale in March, 2015, the Tasmanian Minister for Health, Mr Michael Ferguson, when he was asked for his views about the publication of drinking water data, offered no commitment whatsoever – neither practical nor philosophical – to any level of drinking water data publication in Tasmania.
During this short discussion on the issue of drinking water, which would last for only a few minutes, I began by advising Minister Ferguson that, at Pioneer, two-years, three-months and sixteen-days after the ongoing alert for lead-contaminated drinking water (as per March, 2015), only seven rainwater tanks had been installed by TasWater at Pioneer.
I asked the Minister to investigate and follow-up on TasWater’s poor handling of Pioneer. But Tasmania’s Minister for Health made no commitment to investigate the matter, nor did he offer to meet with me or the community to discuss the problem at length.
Tasmania’s Minister for Health exited this public meeting, with me furtively walking at his side, in the hope that I may be granted more time to speak – but the Minister, once released to the open air and drizzle, bid me farewell. The Minister’s final words were:
“Ahhh… It’s good to get a nice drop of rain.”
Perhaps the Minister spoke without thinking, but in light of the ongoing battle at Pioneer to achieve safe drinking water via rainwater tanks, his comment was certainly deeply insensitive. I am only pleased that the residents of Pioneer were not themselves within earshot of the Minister’s words on this day.
But returning to the more specific issue of drinking water data publication in Tasmania, let us for a moment refer to the specifics of the successful 2015 motion from Local Government Association of Tasmania.
The directive of LGAT’s motion, to lobby the State government – one assumes, to discuss the motion in parliament, with a view to passing legislation – was the topic for comment by the CEO of LGAT, Katrena Stephenson, on December 18, 2015. Ms Stephenson wrote to me:
‘We have indeed been working hard to engage State Government on this matter… (but it is not appropriate that I provide step by step detail of those conversations to you).’
But it seems that, in reality, perhaps this did not occur. On March 31, 2016, Minister Gutwein’s office confirmed to me, by e-mail:
‘There was no advocacy by LGAT to government.’
Given that only one of these statements can be true, it is either Mr Gutwein’s office, or the CEO of LGAT, who are presenting an incorrect version of what actually occurred.
A misrepresentation such as this one, as it relates to process, is of fundamental relevance to any analysis of the legitimacy, or otherwise, of the process employed to create TasWater’s model for the publication of Tasmania’s drinking water data.
Worst of all, this lack of clarity now about the truth has allows the Tasmanian State government to happily hide themselves from the humble job of serving the people of Tasmania with regard to this issue.
It was only last week, on April 7, that the Tasmania’s Liberal government released a statement on TasWater’s model to publish Tasmania’s drinking water data. Minister Ferguson made the following three statements:
1) I have been advised that TasWater has established a Water Quality Working Group, involving Local Council General Managers. They have recently provided in principal agreement to move towards quarterly publication of monitoring data on their website. Once established, TasWater will seek feedback on this approach to inform the future of their data presentation.
2) I can confirm that water quality data are provided by TasWater upon request; and that communities and individuals can contact TasWater for the most up-to-date information.
3) The Director of Public Health publishes an annual Tasmanian Drinking Water Quality Report. I note that while publication of additional monitoring data may offer transparency, it is not a prerequisite for the safe management of drinking water. Appropriate and established procedures are already in place to effectively manage threats to public health from drinking water.
Unfortunately, little of what Minister Ferguson says here is informed by history, nor the new facts at hand.
Suffice it to say, a Working Group of 3 General Managers, to approve a pre-prepared statewide policy on the publication of drinking water, is clearly not a representative, nor genuine process. The aforementioned evidence, that the GMC Board at LGAT, as well as other key players, appear to have all been by-passed in this process, will be truly disturbing news for all Tasmanians – if they ever are allowed to learn about it.
Are Tasmanians expected to believe that TasWater’s model will be reviewed at a later stage to gauge their wishes? When, in the development of TasWater’s model, the 29 local councils, the sole shareholders of TasWater, were excluded from the process?
Will Tasmanians be asked this simple question?
Would you prefer to have access to ALL drinking water data, and in REAL-TIME?
If this question is not asked of Tasmanians, then a TasWater review will be proved false.
Minister Ferguson’s second statement will be frowned upon by the residents of Pioneer. Results for sediment lead (Pb) in the Pioneer Dam were withheld by TasWater. A Right To Information – a much more complex and costly process than a simple telephone enquiry – was necessary in this case (submitted by Kim Booth, Tasmanian Greens). The results, when they finally arrived, exceeded the health guideline by an astronomical percentage. Where the health guideline value for lead (Pb) is 10 ug/L, sediment lead (Pb) results from the Pioneer Dam ranged from between 500 ug/L to 1650 ug/L.
And even if drinking water data was freely available from TasWater, upon request and in all cases, which it is not, a genuine model, publishing all drinking water in real-time, would ensure that TasWater are not perceived to be withholding data from Tasmania’s citizens.
Minister Ferguson is right to say that additional monitoring of data would offer transparency, but this is more than a Right-To-Know issue.
The Minister has been incorrectly advised if he believes that full transparency is ‘…not a prerequisite for the safe management of drinking water data. Minister Ferguson refers to ‘…established procedures… already in place to effectively manage threats to public health from drinking water’.
But, as I have discussed earlier in this essay, the first item of my 26-item Ombudsman’s report for Pioneer, draws upon data and other supporting evidence (as provided with this essay), which clearly outlines an historical example as recent as 2010 – 2012 when a lead-contaminated drinking water system went unannounced to the community for at least two years. This is of fundamental relevance to TasWater’s inadequate website model for the publication of Tasmania’s drinking water data.
And it goes to the heart of Minister Ferguson’s premise that full data transparency is merely a Right-To-Know issue. Mr Ferguson, this is not so. This is a health issue. The health of all Tasmanians. And you, Mr. Ferguson, are Tasmania’s Minister for Health.
I wrote to Minister Ferguson yesterday, April 11, 2016, to brief him fully in relation to the facts I have now presented in this essay. The Minister is now in full knowledge, and he must revise the Tasmanian Liberal government’s policy accordingly.
The original motion for drinking water data publication was community-driven. Born at Pioneer, the idea grew to become a local council motion in the electorate of Dorset; and later, in July, 2015, Dorset’s motion became a unanimously endorsed motion at LGAT, on behalf of Tasmania’s 29 councils and all Tasmanians.
But from this grassroots beginning, we learn now of a disfigured, unresponsive and opaque model and process.
Tasmania’s local councils are the sole shareholders of TasWater, but the mechanisms and the checks and balances of local government, as they relate to TasWater, are badly broken.
On March 31, 2016, I requested that the Premier initiate a review into the Board at LGAT.
More specifically, I requested of the Premier that he instigate a review into the proposed model for the publication of Tasmania’s drinking water data, and the process by which this model was created and agreed to.
I have asked the Premier to intervene to make certain that the proposed website model for Tasmania is not activated.
And my final letter, yesterday, to the Minister for Health, Mr. Ferguson, was also sent to Tasmania’s Premier, Mr Hodgman.
The key players in this black hole of Tasmanian public health policy, must immediately stand-up, admit to their mistakes, and call for a major revision to the model for the publication of drinking water data in Tasmania.
If they do not, then it is for the Premier of Tasmania to do so…
Who shall halt Tasmania’s most powerful bureaucrats in their tracks?
• Link to Minister Ferguson’s recently announced ‘Open Data Policy’ with regard to drinking water:
*Tim Slade (B.Ed.) was born in Hobart, Tasmania. Tim has lived at Pioneer, in Tasmania’s north-east, since 2009. Since Pioneer’s 2012 ‘Do Not Consume’ alert for lead-contaminated drinking water, Tim and many of his fellow residents at Pioneer have volunteered their time to lobby TasWater and the Tasmanian State government, with a view to providing safe drinking water for all. Tim’s five earlier essays about Tasmania’s drinking water can be read from the archives at Tasmanian Times. Tim’s essays and poetry have been published in Tasmanian Times, Famous Reporter, Koori Mail, Tasmanian Sagacity, The Henry Lawson Festival Poetry Collection, the Janice Bostock Haiku Award Anthology and Cricket Poetry Award Anthology.
EARLIER on Tasmanian Times ...
• Peter in Comments: We stayed in Whitemark (Flinders Island) last year, population 400. It’s not safe to drink the water there, with lead levels even higher than Pioneer. Been that way for years. Posted (below) is part of a chart from the Tasmanian Health Department’s water quality report from 2013 ...
• Peter in Comments: ‘TASWATER spent close to $30,000 on a report designed to test the veracity of a Macquarie University study into lead contamination in Pioneer’s water supply.’
• Richard Kopf in Comments: The problem of Tasmania’s unsafe water goes back well before the creation of Taswater. The water and sewerage infrastructure was trashed by the councils into being more of a liability than an “asset” for which they now receive a $30m dividend per annum …