Page 3918 - Week 12 - Tuesday, 29 November 2022

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Lakes and waterways—Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment report—government response

Ministerial statement

MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong—Attorney-General, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Gaming and Minister for Water, Energy and Emissions Reduction) (10.53): I am pleased to table the government response to the state of the lakes and waterways in the ACT investigation undertaken by the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment.

In March 2021 the ACT Minister for the Environment asked the commissioner to investigate the state of Canberra’s urban lakes and waterways, including water quality and ecological health, the effectiveness of monitoring and management practices, and the role of the community and other stakeholders. In May 2022 the investigation was completed and the report was tabled in August of this year. The report highlights the importance of lakes and waterways for community wellbeing and the significant challenges in managing these assets within an urbanised environment.

There are 12 broad recommendations in the commissioner’s report, related to strategic planning; monitoring and reporting; public access to water information; recognising Ngunnawal knowledge and practices; community participation; governance; compliance; and mitigating urgent issues. The government response to these recommendations is extensive and will require coordination across multiple directorates. The issues reported reaffirm the government’s investment to improve water governance, urban planning and on‐ground delivery of infrastructure to improve the health of our lakes and waterways.

Our urban lakes and waterways play a vital role in the functioning of our city, providing for pollution control, flood mitigation, habitat, amenity and opportunities for recreation. The government understands the diverse values held for our urban lakes and waterways, the critical importance of adapting our management approaches to respond to emerging challenges and the need for continuous work to protect our lakes and waterways for the benefit of our community.

The findings and recommendations presented by the commissioner provide an evaluation that will guide ongoing improvement in our management of lakes and waterways. The Office for Water has been funded, as part of the 2022‐23 ACT budget, to facilitate efficient, effective and coordinated water management. The Office will strengthen the foundational governance arrangements to address the issues reported by the commissioner.

New initiatives being implemented by the Office will improve public access to water information, strengthen our water security from the impacts of climate change and advance the water interests of the Ngunnawal community. Further, an additional $14 million investment into the ACT Healthy Waterways program was made as part of the 2021‐22 budget review, bringing the total value of the program to $20.5 million since the first stage of Healthy Waterways was completed in June 2021. The Healthy Waterways program enables us to address pollution from its source, through strategic

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