The Berejiklian government has broken ranks, urging its federal counterparts in Canberra to “step up” and find a solution to Williamtown’s contamination disaster.
The Opposition was stunned on Thursday, as members of the state government voted in support of a motion by the Labor member for Port Stephens, Kate Washington.
It called on Premier Gladys Berejiklian to stand up for families in the red zone by “urging the Prime Minister to provide a solution to the serious contamination of these people’s homes.”
As Ms Washington spoke in Parliament, she brandished a bottle of water – containing toxic poly- and per-fluoroalkyl chemicals (PFAS) – collected on the property of residents living in Williamtown.
“They wanted me to ask you this question: would you be happy, Minister, drinking this water, giving it to children, having families bathe in it for two years without knowing it was contaminated?” she said.
“It’s changed people’s lives, possibly – tragically – forever.”
It comes in the same week the NSW Environment Protection Authority announced the red zone would be enlarged by 50 per cent, more than two years after the first maps were released.
The motion noted that an additional 250 families were living in the contaminated area, bringing the total number of affected households to 750.
Speaking in support of the motion, Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said the state government was doing everything it could to support residents in the red zone, including arranging for properties to be connected to the Hunter Water network and providing counselling.
“We will also continue to strongly advocate to the Commonwealth that they step up to their responsibilities as the polluter,” she said.
“This is about the people living in the affected area and they need all of our support, our care and attention and they will continue to have that.”
Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp said affected residents in his electorate were fearful about the future.
“I now ask the Premier to visit the region with the Environment Minister in December and talk about this issue with the Prime Minister.”
Nationals MP and the Member for Myall Lakes, Stephen Bromhead, called for urgent action from Defence.
“This government will not stop until the federal government undertakes containment and remediation to stop the flow of PFAS contaminants from the RAAF base,” he said.
But Ms Washington said the words rang hollow amid a lack of action .
“The real differences on the ground are not there and this community needs meaningful outcomes.”