You are here

NSW Parliament Question Time 17th September

27 September 2019

Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) (15:00): My question is directed to the Minister for Energy and Environment. Given his support for additional air quality monitoring in Sydney, will the Minister now give consideration to installing independently observed air quality monitors in Lake Macquarie to validate those operated by industry including Eraring Power Station and coalmining operations?

Mr MATT KEAN (Hornsby—Minister for Energy and Environment) (15:01): I appreciate the question from the member for Lake Macquarie. He is definitely the best member for Lake Macquarie that there ever has been. In fact, he is probably the best bloke in the Parliament—I know it is a low bar sometimes. I thank the member for the work he does on behalf of his community. I am delighted to get a question on air quality today. If there was ever a day that we needed some clear air, it is today.

The short answer to the question is: Absolutely, yes. I will ask my department to come back to me with a full briefing on this issue. Once I have the information I will be happy to come back to the member for Lake Macquarie to explore how we can deliver air quality monitoring stations looking at emissions from the power stations and mines in the area. I am very happy to do that for the member for Lake Macquarie. This will build on the already extensive work that the Environment Protection Authority [EPA] and the environment department do to monitor and reduce the impacts of air pollution across New South Wales.

It should go without saying that every person in this State should have access to clean air. We know that air pollution is a major cause of respiratory illness and has other health impacts. We want to do everything that we reasonably can to reduce air pollution and protect public health. We know that mines and power stations have an impact on air quality, which is why we have a load-based licensing scheme and regulations in place in this State to protect the public. The EPA licenses mines, power stations and other industrial activities and monitors them to ensure compliance to protect public health in New South Wales. We know that there are many causes of poor air quality in this State. They include industrial activity, vehicle emissions, dust and, of course, hazard reduction and bushfires. I inform the House that we are keeping a close eye on the current bushfires and the impact they are having on air quality. We will keep people informed through updates and public warnings on the EPA website. That work will be ongoing.

The way we monitor air quality in New South Wales is through an air monitoring network that consists of 86 monitoring sites across the State, including 20 stations in the Hunter Valley. It is the largest and most comprehensive air monitoring network in the country—Victoria only has 21 stations, Queensland has 34 and South Australia is a long way behind with 13. The Sydney network currently comprises 18 stations. There are three monitoring stations in the Illawarra, which I know the members in the Illawarra are very happy about. There are six in the lower Hunter and 14 in the upper Hunter. The regional air monitoring network includes seven regional centres: Albury, Armidale, Bathurst, Gunnedah, Narrabri, Tamworth and North Wagga Wagga, to be exact.

The rural network consists of 35 indicative monitoring sites converted from the Community DustWatch network. The Government made some ministerial commitments in 2017 for new air quality monitoring stations which have been established at Parramatta North, Gunnedah, Narrabri—

Ms Kate Washington: Where is the plan? Where is the clean air plan?

Mr MATT KEAN: I acknowledge the interjection from the member for Port Stephens. Like many things that it is working on, the Government is absolutely committed to delivering better outcomes for the environment.

Ms Kate Washington: This has been planning for a long time.

Mr MATT KEAN: I have only been in the job for six months tackling some very serious environmental issues. They include opening the new koala hospital in Port Stephens, which everyone else seems grateful for except the member for Port Stephens. We are very committed to delivering for our environment in New South Wales and we will continue to do that, whether it be improving air quality or taking decisive or responsible action when it comes to tackling climate change.

Perhaps I can update the House about how we are going to expand the footprint of our national parks in New South Wales. I know the member for Baulkham Hills, who is our resident greenie on this side of the House, has been advocating passionately for a new national park in his electorate. He is joined by the member for Castle Hill and the mayor of The Hills Shire Council, who want to see more protections for our national parks. I will take interjections from the member for Port Stephens any day of the week. We have a great record on the environment. There is so much more I want to say about air quality. [Extension of time]

The SPEAKER: There is too much noise in the Chamber.

Mr MATT KEAN: It is hard for everyone to contain their excitement about our ambitious plans to improve and protect the environment in New South Wales. I will say for the member for Lake Macquarie that we have new air quality monitoring stations installed in Gunnedah for the benefit of the Northern Tablelands, Armidale, Orange, Rouse Hill, and recently one was installed on the Bradfield Highway. Last week with the Lord Mayor of Sydney, I was delighted to announce a new air monitoring station on top of the Cook and Phillip Park pool. I thank the member for Sydney for his advocacy with regard to this important issue. The City of Sydney has been lobbying the Government on it for some time. I am delighted to have started by delivering this one and I am looking for other opportunities to implement air quality monitoring stations around the CBD.

The New South Wales Annual Air Quality Statement in 2018 showed that air quality in New South Wales was either very good, good or fair. To be exact, it met that criteria for more than 87 per cent of the time in the Sydney regions, for 90 to 94 per cent of the time in the Illawarra and the South West Slopes, for 95 per cent of the time in the upper Hunter and the North West Slopes and for 97 per cent to 98 per cent of the time in all other regions. The Government is obviously committed to delivering better air quality for the citizens of this State. We are committed to reducing air pollution. We understand the impacts it has on respiratory illnesses and its other human health impacts. We want to ensure that we do everything reasonably possible to protect people in this State.

The EPA has a strong regime in place. We monitor that regime. There is a load-based licensing scheme in place. That said, there is always room for improvement. I am committed to working with the member for Lake Macquarie and receive a briefing on where we could put air quality monitoring stations in the Lake Macquarie area for the betterment of his community.