South Para Reservoir

5th September 2018 


The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS (16:47): I move: 

That this council— 

1. Acknowledges the 60th anniversary of the South Para Reservoir, which is the most recent and largest of the reservoirs in the South Para system; 

2. Highlights the importance of water storage to supply urban and industrial areas; 

3. Takes note of the 60th anniversary to be celebrated with a book launch, bus tours and barbecue to be held at the Senior Citizens/RSL Hall, Williamstown, on Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 October 2018 from 11am; 

4. Recognises the enormous contribution to the construction of the reservoir by migrants from other countries and the community feeling, which quickly developed amongst the families which lived on site; and 

5. Acknowledges the work of the organising committee and the sponsors of the event SA Water, Williamstown Hotel, Williamstown Post Office and Smith Bros. 

This year, the South Para Reservoir celebrates the 60th anniversary of its official opening on Friday 17 October 1958 by the Hon. Sir Thomas Playford, then premier of South Australia. Citizens will celebrate the anniversary with a book launch, bus tours and a barbecue at the senior citizens RSL Hall in Williamstown on Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 October. 

Long-time poet, writer and storyteller Martin Johnson from Gawler will release his second edition of Twenty Houses, an anecdotal history of the building of the South Para Reservoir to coincide with the anniversary. Mr Johnson has been the leader in the movement to celebrate this anniversary, in fact it was some time ago that I first learnt that the anniversary was coming up, and he has been very active in getting a committee together to work on this anniversary. 

Mr Johnson has worked with SA Water, which obviously is the owner and operator of the site, to get them to provide some access to the site because unfortunately these days there is no public access to the site, something that is vastly different from the days of my youth when certainly a number of us from my area can remember going to the South Para Reservoir for recreation and enjoyment as young people. It is a place that is worth seeing. I did raise last year with the then minister, the Hon. Mr Hunter, the issue of getting SA Water to assist with the celebration of this milestone, but also to allow some public access on that weekend. 

The potential of the site was recognised many years before its establishment and was actually referred to in a report to the parliament back in 1878. The reservoir was originally constructed in response to rapid population growth—largely a result of postwar immigration—and industrial development in South Australia. Costing $6.4 million, the reservoir took almost a decade to construct, from 1949 to 1958, with predominantly migrant workers undertaking the project, most of them living on site during the construction period. 

South Para Reservoir is the newest and largest of the reservoirs in the South Para System. The other reservoirs are the Barossa Reservoir and the Warren Reservoir. South Para Reservoir is situated between Williamstown and Para Wirra Conservation Park. The site of the dam is immediately below the confluence of the two main tributaries of South Para River—Malcolm Creek and Victoria Creek. The reservoir is surrounded by nature reserve and has been a focus of two major revegetation projects: the first in the late 1950s, when over 5,000 trees and shrubs were planted, and the second as part of the South Australian government’s Million Trees initiative. 

As we all know in our climate, reservoirs are South Australia’s primary water storage areas. Their existence is critical to the supplying of water to urban and industrial areas across the state. The South Para Reservoir is situated in the electorate of Schubert, but many of those with a strong connection to the construction history live in the electorates of Light and King and in many other areas. 

As I said, I have many memories of going to South Para as a young person, and I know many other people do too. It is important that as many people are aware of this celebration. I know the committee has gone to great lengths to bring it to the attention of the general public. Last year, I attended an official launch of the anniversary celebrations, which was held in Café Nova in Gawler. I note that the member for Light was in attendance. I am also aware that the member for Schubert, Mr Knoll, is well aware of this anniversary, as is the Minister for Environment and Water. 

I will be attending as much of the celebrations as I can, and I urge others to take part if they wish to. As I said earlier, I think it is very important that the work of Mr Martin Johnson, which he published some years ago, is going to be republished because it gives a great snapshot of the efforts that were taken, under some difficult conditions, to construct that reservoir and the fact that so many of the families involved in the construction were people who had been very recent migrants to this country. Many of those families have remained in that general area and have become very important members of the communities of Williamstown and Gawler, the northern suburbs and other parts of the Barossa and other places close by. 

For anybody who has met him, Martin Johnson himself is a great character of Gawler and the surrounding areas. He has an ability to get people involved in projects that he thinks are worthwhile. I commend him and the other members of the organising committee for the work they have done to commemorate what is an important milestone of a piece of infrastructure that is very important to South Australia. 

I also indicate that I would like members to make a contribution, if they wish to, on the next Wednesday of sitting. It is unusual to ask to bring something to a vote that quickly, but I would like to conclude this debate before the actual 60th anniversary and unfortunately I have not that long ago realised that the only sitting week before then is the next sitting week, which is a fortnight away. I will be communicating with members, hopefully later this afternoon, just to ask anybody who wishes to contribute to this motion to do so on 19 September, if they would. 

Once again, I think this indicates that people in South Australia are proud of their history. This is, as I said, an area of South Australia that was identified in the 1870s as having the potential for a great reservoir. It wasn’t completed until probably 80 years later, but now we are about to celebrate its 60th anniversary. I commend the motion to the chamber.