Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 1 Hansard (29 April) . . Page.. 132 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
amount of organic matter in the reach above Numeralla River. All of the induced processes have degraded habitat for fish, including relic and reintroduced populations of rare and threatened native species.
While the impacts of flow regulation on the upper Murrumbidgee are clearly evident, the river maintains important ecological values and flow regulation impacts that are not beyond reasonable restoration. An important opportunity therefore exists to address flow regulation impacts in order to prevent further degradation, and to restore the river's morphology and ecology.
Mr Speaker, if we fail to regain some of our natural water flows through the high reaches of the Murrumbidgee, the Snowy and other rivers in the Snowy scheme area before the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme is corporatised - and it probably will be privatised eventually - then it will be much more difficult to return water to these rivers for environmental purposes. I urge the Government and this Assembly to take a very strong position on this critical issue. We cannot let control of our water get into the hands of the private sector without having restored the environmental flow necessary to repair our ecological systems.
If the Minister does respond positively to this motion, I would suggest that it would be a particularly strong submission if it were supported unanimously by this Assembly. If he does not support it, there is certainly a place for other members to put in a strong joint submission. I believe that many members of the community are concerned about the current trend of privatisation, particularly of water resources. I encourage members of this place to work together on this important issue.
MR SPEAKER: I would like to recognise the presence in the gallery of Years 4 and 5 students of Canberra Grammar School who are here for their local government area of study. Welcome to your Assembly.
MR SMYTH (Minister for Urban Services) (11.53): I thank Ms Tucker for raising this issue. I am very pleased to be able to respond most positively. In fact, I start by saying that I have a great personal attachment to these areas and the rivers that flow from them. It was at the age of the Grammar boys who are present - Years 4 and 5 - that the school I went to was involved in hiking through these areas. I have canoed and swum in most of these rivers and I have seen what has happened to them.
Mr Speaker, the purpose of the Snowy River inquiry is to address the issues arising from the current patterns of flow caused by the Snowy Mountains scheme. Currently, Tantangara Dam diverts nearly all the flow from the Murrumbidgee at that point into the Snowy Mountains scheme, with something like 300 gigalitres a year being taken from the Murrumbidgee catchment area and given to the scheme. Releases are required to maintain a minimum flow of 31.8 megalitres per day at the Mittagang Crossing, above the ACT, and of 17.1 megalitres per day at the Cotter Crossing. While these levels do meet the needs of the river banks, they are well below the flow needs required to protect the aquatic ecosystems. I acknowledge the facts quoted from various reports by Ms Tucker.