Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 3 Hansard (28 March) . . Page.. 673..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
In addition, in relation to water and the work that has been done over the last two to three years by Actew to secure our water in terms of both quality and immediate and long-term security of supply, we have expended significant amounts of money. When I say "we", Actew has. It is, of course, our company. It is "we", but they are separate. Some of these decisions are made without undue influence of government, although these are issues that we discuss regularly.
I do not know the exact number, but it is fair to say that in the last three years-certainly since the bushfire-Actew has spent somewhere in the order of $60 million to secure the catchments, particularly the Cotter catchment, to ensure that we have sufficient treatment capacity in the water treatment plants at both Stromlo and Googong and for the delivery and construction of the bulk water transfer system from the Cotter catchment to the Googong catchment. All of these works combined have cost somewhere in the order of $60 million-plus. It is appropriate that Actew looks to recover from the Canberra consumer the cost of that enormous investment in our water infrastructure and in our long-term security.
These issues are, to some extent, in the gift of the ICRC and, to the extent that the member asks specifically about strategies, they are very much stratagems that depend on the work and inquiries of the ICRC. To the extent that we have a capacity to impose the water abstraction charge, there are some limitations on us in relation to ensuring that no water abstraction charge can be otherwise identified or described as a tax or excise. It is a legitimate impost designed to ensure that the territory, or Actew, is recompensed for the cost of the provision of water.
To the nub of the question: Actew is at the moment pursuing in the ICRC an appropriate pricing regime to take account of the enormous capital investment over the last two or three years, an investment of $60 million-plus on infrastructure. This government has previously, two budgets ago, enhanced the water abstraction charge in recognition of the cost of the supply of water.
In terms of costing, there is a third issue to be considered that has not yet been considered, but which should be considered and will be considered by the government. It is certainly something that I have commenced discussions on. That is the need, in the context of our water strategy "Think water, act water"and the targets we have set, to determine the extent to which price should be utilised as a factor in relation to usage or demand for water. That particular issue is not one that is being pursued at this stage, but I am alive to it.
MR MULCAHY: I thank the Chief Minister for his answer. My supplementary question is: what direction are you giving the Actew corporation in the conflict between water conservation and its need to make a profit?
MR STANHOPE: It is fair to say that I am not sure that the shareholders or I have directed Actew on the need to address that particular conflict. I meet regularly with Actew and I correspond regularly with Actew. I am aware of the issue. It is raised regularly in this place in the context of the whole range of work that Actew does-for instance, in relation to the very significant and valuable scientific work that Actew did to identify our medium to long-term needs and how best to secure them.