Page 1931 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 27 June 2023

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The purpose of the bill is to clarify the administrative responsibilities for water resource management policy and regulatory function. The proposed amendments provide the Office of Water with the operating framework required to support a holistic and coordinated approach to water policy and program that is required to strengthen the ACT’s water security. For example, the responsibility for keeping the state and condition of the ACT’s water resources under review is most effectively delivered by an agency with technical capability to conduct this work and the policy responsibility to respond.

The bill makes no material change to the functions and powers under the act that currently exist. The ACT and Region Catchment Management Coordination Group continues to provide an important forum for bringing together diverse stakeholders to facilitate regional collaboration. The bill also includes amendments that expand the value that this group may provide to government by enabling both the minister for water and the territory’s water policy agency to request their advice on water catchment management matters.

Changes to the group’s membership reflect the value of independent advice to government. The bill has been drafted to remove prescription and allow for membership adaptability. A changed membership make-up from time to time may be necessary to better address the matters being considered. I know the opinions of this group are highly valued by government and I appreciate their input into the complex work of catchment management.

We also know that our water comes from Namadgi National Park and the Australian Alps, which make up a large, complex catchment environment for our region. It is vital that these sensitive ecosystems are protected from invasive species and climate change. Here in the ACT, we have done important work to restore sphagnum moss and bogs in Namadgi, which are an important part of the catchment system. Covering around 740 hectares of the ACT, the bogs and fens ecological community is a series of unique wetlands defined by an underlying layer of peat that often hosts critical sphagnum moss species. For example, the Ginini Flats Wetland Complex listed under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands is the most significant intact sphagnum bog and fen community in the Australian Alps.

The ACT government is currently finalising the draft action plan for high country bogs and fens. Protecting these unique ecosystems will be vital in ensuring our catchment is healthy into the future. This work is being done separately to this bill, but it is important to consider the interconnectedness of our catchment system and of the environmental areas generally.

The ACT government is continuing delivery against its commitments in the parliamentary and governing agreement. Establishing the Office of Water 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. I commend the bill to the Assembly.

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