China has a stake in WA’s water supply after buying a quarter of a water treatment plant that feeds the pipeline to Kalgoorlie. About 100,000 people in the Perth Hills, Kalgoorlie and agricultural areas rely on the water.
Beijing Enterprises Water Group International last week finalised its purchase of Australian water company TRILITY, which is part of the private consortium behind the Helena Water treatment facility.
Helena Water, which counted Spain’s ACCIONA Agua and Britain’s Lloyds Bank as original partners alongside TRILITY, entered into a so-called public-private partnership with the Barnett government to build and operate the new facility for 35 years before returning it to government ownership.
The deal was struck in 2011 and in 2014 the $300 million plant started treating 10 gigalitres of water a year from the Mundaring Weir, groundwater, a desalination plant and the Lower Helena catchment zone.
About 100,000 people in the Perth Hills, Kalgoorlie and agricultural areas rely on the water.
“This transaction demonstrates one of the potential pitfalls of privatising important water infrastructure,” Water Minister Dave Kelly said.
“When the previous Liberal National government privatised the Mundaring Water Treatment Plant they claimed to have carefully selected the right private partners with the necessary expertise and long-term commitment.
“Yet now, just four years into a 35-year contract, one of the major owners has sold out. It is the McGowan Government’s belief that important water infrastructure should remain in public hands.”
Opposition Leader Mike Nahan said Mr Kelly was xenophobic and undermining WA’s trade relationship with China.
“Dave Kelly, and the Western Australian Government, need to explain why it is fine for their own Government, through Synergy, to enter directly into a joint venture with a Dutch infrastructure fund but have no shame in criticising the former government because a private entity in a partnership with a government entity has been sold to a Chinese company,” Dr Nahan said.
“Labor and the unions ran a distasteful xenophobic campaign at the last election, running a fear campaign that Western Power would be sold to foreign, and in particular, Chinese entities.
“Not only was this dishonest but since the election they have offloaded State-owned power assets to a foreign entity.”