QUESTION: Arsenic contamination on railway corridors

In Question Time Mark asked the Minister for Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment about site contamination on railway corridors.


The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: Does any of the government's proposed spending on new rail trails involve assessment of those trails for site contamination, given that every railway corridor in South Australia is contaminated by arsenic, which was used—

The Hon. I.K. Hunter: There's no spending involved; this is all doing business cases.

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Hunter, I appreciate your—

The Hon. I.K. Hunter interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: I appreciate your willingness to assist—

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: —to suppress weeds—

The PRESIDENT: —the Hon. Mr Ridgway in answering the question.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: —and to protect sleepers from termites.

ANSWER - The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment): I thank the honourable member for his question about arsenic. I am sure it was used to kill termites; I'm not sure it suppresses weeds because it is an insecticide rather than a herbicide but, nonetheless, the honourable member is quite right. There are some wonderful opportunities.

There is an old rail corridor from Kingston through Lucindale to Naracoorte. Of course, the existing corridor that runs from Wolseley down to Mount Gambier, although I suspect the most likely part that could be used would be Naracoorte to Mount Gambier, and there is an old one from Beachport through to Mount Gambier. There are also the ones we talked about, the Riesling Trail and up through the Barossa and others.

I know that in Mount Gambier, right in the middle of the city, they have already turned the old railway line into a cycling trail. I am sure members are very familiar with how a railway line works: you have ballast and stone, sleepers and two railway lines. What they have done in Mount Gambier is just put a simple bit of bitumen between the two railway lines. Certainly, in a rail yard in a city where there would have been a lot of movement and a lot of activity, I expect there would have been a much higher potential for contamination. It appears that in the city of Mount Gambier they have been able to put a bitumen strip between the railway lines, and I'm not—

The Hon. M.C. Parnell: It's fixable, it just costs money.

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: It does cost money and that's part of the assessment, to say, 'How can we do this?' In some cases these rail corridors still have the lines in place: Naracoorte to Mount Gambier; Lucindale to Naracoorte, no; Beachport to Millicent, no; but Millicent to Mount Gambier, yes; and up through the Barossa, the Riesling Trail, the lines have been gone for years.

Again, that's not part of the Adelaide to Melbourne bike trail assessment, but that is exactly why we've committed some money to do this, to talk to the local communities and say, 'Where would you like it to go?' If you get to Kingston, do you want to go around the coast and into Mount Gambier, or do you want to go across to Naracoorte, down to the world heritage-listed Naracoorte Caves? I think former minister Hunter may have teased everybody with a little bit of money into redeveloping the Naracoorte Caves. I heard there was a $20 million program, but he did not ever fund that, unfortunately. But then, of course, for those in this place who might like some lovely Coonawarra wine, you can go through the Coonawarra—

The PRESIDENT: Hon. Mr Ridgway, you are really straying off the point here.

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: I'm just trying to emphasise how important these rail trails are.

The PRESIDENT: Stick to the question.

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: That is exactly why we want to talk to the community: where do you want it to go? We won't be able to do them all in the first instance. So we actually want the community to have some input, and it will be about local businesses, the ones that can provide food and refreshment and overnight accommodation, where they might exist, bed and breakfast, on that trail. We are looking at the rail trails. I don't think that arsenic contamination will be a significant problem, but I take on board the honourable member's question and, if there's an issue with arsenic, I will bring back some reply at some point in the future.