NSW Labor Candidate for Goulburn Michael Pilbrow, joined NSW Shadow Minister for Water, Housing and Homelessness Rose Jackson at the Yass Water Treatment Plant on Cooks Hill Road last Friday morning, 24 February, to reveal their election promise to fix Yass’ current dismal water quality.

The two Labor representatives were joined by two Yass locals which the current water crisis affects every day, Yass Valley Council Deputy Mayor Jasmin Jones and local water quality advocate and former councillor Ross Webster.

NSW Labor’s announcement on Friday was to ensure that they could deliver water security for the Yass Community, after a Wendy Tuckerman Liberal Government failed to deliver on their promises regarding Yass’ water from the last state election, pledging a $10 million promise at the 2019 election.

Yass has been suffering from smelly, discoloured water for years, with major storms in the past two years forcing the town to issue a boiled water alert and critical shortages of available treated water left in the town’s system to deliver to residents in Yass, Murrumbateman, Binalong and Bowning.

“A Minns Labor Government will deliver water security for Yass with a $13.5 million funding commitment, to replace ageing water pipes currently causing discolouration and fast-tracking a new water treatment plant in partnership with Yass Valley Council,” Candidate for Goulburn Michael Pilbrow said.

Yass Valley Council’s Water Engineer Kuga Kugaprasatham, Labor candidate for Goulburn Michael Pilbrow, Labor’s Shadow NSW Minister for Water Rose Jackson and Deputy Mayor Jasmin Jones in the engine room at the Yass Water Treatment Plant

“According to Yass Valley Council, the current water supply is “affected by water hardness, dissolved solids, high organic matter, iron and manganese; causing the varying taste and colour long experienced by local residents.

Labor stated “Prior to the 2019 election, Wendy Tuckerman and the Liberal Government committed $10 million to upgrade the water treatment plant at Yass – four years later it’s clear, this is another broken promise from a government who just don’t get it. NSW Labor’s commitment will be in addition to this.

“Now, on the eve of an election, rather than take responsibility for her government’s failure to deliver, Wendy Tuckerman is shamelessly blaming Yass Valley Council.

“Families in Yass, Bowing, Binalong and Murrumbateman consistently experience significant water quality issues, including discolouration and poor taste.

“In 2020 residents were forced to boil their water before consumption, following a public health warning.

Yass water in the first steps of treatment

“Under a Minns Labor government, the buck-passing would stop, and real action for the people of Yass would begin, with a direction to be given to Yass Valley Council to expedite these essential water infrastructure upgrades.

“This announcement comes two days after Wendy Tuckerman publicly declared her support for the privatisation of Sydney water.”

Liberal MP Wendy Tuckerman blamed Council last week for lack of progress, but Yass Valley Council Deputy Mayor Jasmin Jones said that the State government didn’t give them the go-ahead.

“Not giving us a green light to go to Stage 2 is the reason why we have not been able to deliver the project,” Cr Jones rebutted.

NSW Shadow Minister for Water, Housing and Homelessness Rose Jackson said if elected at the March 25th election, Labor will have the project underway in their first term.

“We will get started on this and hope to get construction on the way, and if we can get it done in four years then fantastic,” Jackson said.

“Yass is a prime example of the broken promises that the community has seen from this [Liberal] government.”

Ross Webster, former Shire Councillor and long-term advocate for a better catchment and better water quality for the ratepayers and residents of the Yass Valley, also spoke at the press conference on Friday.

“As Jasmin said, this has been a long time coming ever since we raised the weir wall,” Webster said.

“The incumbent government has taken their eye off the ball with regard to this as an issue, I believe.

Rose Jackson with Manager of the Yass Water Treatment Plant Kuga Kugaprasatham and Michael Pilbrow

“I’m very encouraged by the way Michael has picked up what was going on very quickly and acted accordingly. 

“So, we welcome this commitment from a possible Labor government in New South Wales, it will be much appreciated by the residents of this Shire and the water users.

The statement from Labor comes after a recent Fix Yass Water rally of community members at Banjo Paterson Park, Yass.

Tim Warren