Govt to spend $4million supplying Opal fuel to petrol stations
The National Indigenous Times reports lobby group The Opal Alliance welcomes Health Minister Tony Abbott’s July 6 announcement that the government would spend $4 million a year supplying Opal fuel to all 10 petrol stations in the community.
A Senate committee report, released last month, has told the government it must do more to identify and combat barriers “that prevent a complete roll out of Opal throughout the central Australian region”.
It must also look at ways to boost production of Opal to ensure there are adequate supplies for communities crippled by the scourge of petrol sniffing.
Lobby group The Opal Alliance said the roll-out of Opal in Alice Springs was a “major victory for commonsense”. However, Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (NPY) Women’s Council Director, Yanyi Bandicha, said the federal government would not legislate to make it compulsory for petrol stations to sell only Opal unleaded, as this is a matter for the states and territories.
“The Opal Alliance has been working closely with communities in Central Australia calling for a compulsory roll-out of Opal fuel for almost two years,” she said, “Opal is proven to reduce sniffing in some parts of our region but it drops off for a while then goes up again in many communities, because there is still the old unleaded fuel available. “Alice Springs is still a big source of regular unleaded.”
The Alliance has called for the introduction of youth services in the region to complement the rollout. “A roll-out of Opal fuel across the region will have a big effect in reducing petrol sniffing but young people in the region need better options in their lives so they don’t go on to other drugs like marijuana,” said the NYP Director.
In 2005, The GPT Group (one of Australia’s largest diversified listed property groups) joined forces with the NPY Women’s Council and the Central Australian Youth Link-up Service (CAYLUS) to lobby the Federal Government to expand its subsidy of OPAL Fuel to combat the practice of petrol sniffing in Central Australia.
The two Red Centre resorts owned by GPT Group and managed by Voyages Hotels & Resorts, have replaced unleaded fuel with Opal fuel, a non sniffable fuel developed by BP.
A cost benefit study commissioned by The Opal Alliance and conducted by Access Economics found the net financial cost would be only $1.5 million per annum for the Federal and State Governments to roll out Opal fuel across Central Australia.
Access Economics found that in 2005 petrol sniffing cost Governments and Australian taxpayers $78.9 million through disease burden, strain on the health and justice system, and rehabilitation costs.
The Report found $25.1 million per annum in financial savings could be achieved and lives could be saved if Opal fuel was subsidised as a complete replacement for regular unleaded petrol across Central Australia along with supplementary measures including tri-state legislation to deal with petrol trafficking.