Page 829 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 29 March 2023

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The bill also clarifies roles and responsibilities in relation to water resource assessment and investigations. The authority retains responsibility for regulatory water resources investigation. The director-general becomes responsible for water resource assessment. Water resource assessment relates predominantly to surface and groundwater baseline monitoring. Baseline monitoring provides the objective evidence necessary to make sound decisions on managing water quality and quantity today and in the future.

Amendments to part 7 will also make the director-general responsible for the policy work required to inform the water management areas, quantification of available water in areas and reasonable amounts of water disallowable instruments. This policy work will support the authority in administering water access entitlements and inform compliance.

The ACT and Region Catchment Coordination Group continues to make a valuable contribution by bringing together diverse stakeholders to provide expert advice. The bill makes no substantive change to the function of the group. It does, however, propose augmenting the function of the group to allow for the director-general to call on this group to inform, if required, matters being considered by government. This approach strengthens collaboration with the governance body being established in coming weeks to support the coordination function of the Office of Water while facilitating greater alignment between the matters considered by the group and those being considered by government.

It also adds a provision which allows the minister to direct the group to provide advice about a stated water catchment management matter. This enables the minister to call on the group, providing an adaptive approach to addressing evolving catchment management matters, outside the group’s business-as-usual activities, which would be identified in the group’s annual work plan.

It also removes specificity around membership, allowing for membership diversification and adaptability to reflect an evolving water catchment management agenda. Membership is currently being considered. However, in recognition of Indigenous knowledge, a First Nations member will be included.

The bill makes consequential amendments to the following pieces of legislation: the Water Resources Regulation 2007; the Utilities (Water Conservation) Regulation 2006; the Utilities Act 2000; and the Environment Protection Act 1997. These are minor in nature and are required to respond to the amendments to part 7, section 64 and to ensure that relevant agencies share information with both the authority and the director-general.

The ACT government is continuing delivery against its commitment in the parliamentary and governing agreement. Establishing the office and amendments to the Water Resources Act deliver on our commitment to “consider the best administrative arrangements to manage new water programs and provide a holistic and coordinated approach to water programs and policy”.

The office will strengthen water management arrangements within the territory and support delivery of the water strategy vision—a community working together,

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