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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 10 Hansard (Thursday, 23 September 2010) . . Page.. 4484 ..

experiencing a welcome boost in dam levels and rainfall, but that does not make this work any less of a priority. Over the past decade, Canberrans have led the way in adapting to a dry climate, and one good year does not mean that these behaviours should be forgotten. Some things just make sense. I thank Ms Hunter for bringing this matter of public importance to the attention of the Assembly today.

MR RATTENBURY (4.22): I think that in the ACT, in light of the recent dry period that we have experienced, we have built a culture of being water aware. I think that is a healthy place for a community such as ours to be in. I certainly experience this regularly in the conversations I have with people and in the emails that I receive. I think the Canberra community is extremely water aware. It is something that they realise is very fundamental to the future of this city.

I think people understand that we are facing the long-term challenges of living in a city that is likely to face future water stress. We cannot necessarily measure the benefits of that without understanding exactly how much has been invested in getting the community to this place. But we do not want to lose that appreciation both of water saving and water efficiency. We cannot afford to get complacent, even if we are now going through a period where, fortunately, our dams are filling to well above the dramatically low levels we have seen in the last couple of years.

In that context, I would like to talk about the bigger picture. I think the intent behind Ms Hunter’s MPI today is really to say: we are in a period of some relief, but what is the longer term, big picture perspective, for the ACT? It seems to me that that has a lot to do with the cost of demand management versus the cost of major water infrastructure. If we are going to invest in these large-scale projects that will add significant cost to water consumers’ bills—as certainly the Cotter Dam and the other projects that are currently underway, or are planned, are going to—then we must first and foremost also ensure that we are doing absolutely everything we can to improve urban water efficiency right across Canberra.

It is well documented that it is cheaper to save water that we already have than to build large-scale infrastructure to get more water—aside from the fact that, obviously, if the water is not falling out of the sky, no matter how much infrastructure you build, it is never going to be any good. However, as I said earlier, we do have these large infrastructure projects under development. That brings us on to this sense of water pricing.

Ms Hunter talked earlier about the fact that different people put different value on water and want to use water for different things. I was struck by Mrs Dunne taking a pot shot at Ms Hunter on this. It was interesting; I think it is the only way that she knows how to do these things. She just could not help herself. Ms Hunter talked about a range of possible things that people value water for. She talked about vegetable gardens, she talked about people wanting to wash their cars and their windows and a whole range of matters. She talked about the Greens’ support for acknowledging that the lawns at Kingston—or the Kingston green—were something that we felt should have been retained, because it was such a valuable community asset. Poor old Mrs Dunne could not help herself: she had to take some pot shot about Ms Hunter not wanting Canberrans to have lawns. It is clear that the Liberal Party is now the champion of lawns in Canberra. It was simply a bizarre intervention.

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