Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 12 Hansard (Wednesday, 27 October 2010) . . Page.. 5126 ..
government policy that we should be in water restrictions one year in 20. We have heard Actew Corporation tell us that we can expect not to be under water restrictions into the future but to be in a system of permanent water conservation measures. I think there is general agreement that we should have such measures. We are told that temporary water restrictions will be a one-in-20-year occurrence.
The proposed Murray-Darling Basin plan, I would suggest, puts paid to all that. If we end up with the sorts of reductions in the order of 13 to 18 gigalitres that would eventuate under the plan as it is currently proposed, as I have said before we would be in the equivalent of stage 3 water restrictions. If we grow as a city and as a community we will have to buy extra water needed for that growth. We will have to buy that water from the water that is stored essentially in our dams—the infrastructure that is costing the ACT community half a billion dollars.
This is one of the aspects of this whole process that I do not think the people of the ACT fully understand. It is partly because this government is afraid or unwilling to articulate this. We can store water in our dams. In the Murray-Darling Basin system that is not a diversion. It is only when we use that water that it is a diversion. Those dams can be filled but if the program evolves as it currently looks, we will be limited to using something in the order of 28 gigalitres a year net. That means that even when those dams are full we will not be able to draw down at a faster rate than we did when we had stage 3 water restrictions. That is the problem for us in the ACT.
Mr Corbell, when the guide was first announced, was quoted in the press as saying that this will ensure our water security into the future. He is, strictly speaking, technically correct because as things stand we will be unable to draw down at the rate at which we currently anticipate we would be able to draw down. Our capacity to draw down out of those dams will be much curtailed. Of course, the storage life of a full dam will last much longer. So technically speaking the minister is correct. It would ensure our water security into the future but not in a way, I think, that the people of the ACT would expect.
This is serious stuff. It has the potential to have a serious impact on the social and economic wellbeing of the ACT and its people as it does on every other community in the basin. It is the most serious threat ever to confront our community. What is sad though is that the Canberra Liberals are the only political party to draw these matters to the attention of the people of Canberra. It is only us who have highlighted the seriousness of that threat confronting our city, our lifestyle, our social and our economic wellbeing.
Mr Corbell has said that he is concerned about the plan and the potential impact on the future growth of the ACT. Mr Rattenbury, on behalf of the Greens, has made probably the most telling comments. He said on ABC news the day after the guide was released: “We must rescue the Murray Darling Basin. This plan cannot be allowed to fail and as the ACT, one of the largest cities on this river, we definitely need to make our contribution.”
I agree with the first sentence. We do need to rescue the Murray-Darling Basin and I have been on the record on this matter for a very long time. But just to say at the first