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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 09 Hansard (Thursday, 18 August 2005 2005) . . Page.. 2873 ..

That is not true. That is simply not the case. We are at the limit, or thereabouts, of our sustainable yield in all of our subcatchments. We have experienced this just recently. I have another example. Should we maintain the same allocation of water, say, in the Yarralumla catchment that prevents the allocation of water to commercial enterprises? The government is currently engaged in close negotiations with the owner of the zoo in relation to his water needs. All we are seeking to pursue through this moratorium is whether there is a higher order issue in our capacity to provide water to a major attraction and employer, and commercial engine, such as the zoo or should we simply maintain the status quo of first come, first served: all water to those residents that can afford to access it?

We need to understand that of the 120,000 houses, or thereabouts, in the ACT, 150 currently have private water licences. To the extent that you can argue—well, you cannot argue at all—that access to a licence is in some way allowing us to maintain the essential nature or fabric of the garden city, it maintains it for 150 residents but it ignores the fact that the other 119,850 are basically out there complying with the water restrictions that are in place, and doing it remarkably well. But there is a group of 150 residents who, through their access to resources, have said, “I do not particularly want to have to apply myself to the rigour of a water restrictions regime so I’ll bung down a bore to access water and I’ll continue to use water as I always have.”

We are seeking to drive a cultural change. We are seeking to ensure that we utilise water for higher order, or the greater good. We are seeking to ensure that we fully understand the nature of our ground water resource. We are determined to ensure that it is used appropriately and sustainably. The way it goes now—first come, first served—simply cannot be said to be fair and, essentially, it shows a lack of rigour around the way in which we deal with this valuable, diminishing, community resource.

A number of other issues have been raised in relation to the fact that there is legal action currently under way. For us to put off or postpone this legislation in light of that would simply maintain the status quo—we would still have a queue of individuals lining up for a licence—and we would not be able to institute a new look or a review or to achieve the objectives that we are pursuing through this particular amendment to the Water Resources Act.

A number of other issues were raised by the scrutiny of bills committee. On the basis of advice and further consultation with the Office of Parliamentary Counsel, the government has decided today to introduce amendments that reflect the comments of the scrutiny of bills committee, and I propose to move those, with the support of the Assembly. I thank colleagues within the Assembly for their contribution to the debate and look forward to their continuing support.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill agreed to in principle.

Detail stage

Clauses 1 to 4, by leave, taken together and agreed to.

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