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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 1 Hansard (29 April) . . Page.. 133 ..

MR SMYTH (continuing):

I have to say, though, that the ACT does lead Australia in that we have environmental flow guidelines for our waterways. These guidelines are based on the best available scientific information and provide water for the environment to protect the health and viability of our rivers.

The Government will be shortly reintroducing a water resources Bill that we believe will better protect one of the community's most precious resources. The legislation will also formalise the environmental flow guidelines. I am happy to tell the Assembly, and in particular Ms Tucker, given that she has raised this issue, that my department is preparing a submission for the inquiry. That will be available in a few weeks for consideration by the Government. I would be most delighted to consult with you personally about the sort of input that you think we should make.

The ACT Government strongly believes in the principle of providing water for the environment in all rivers, and this will be a key aspect of our submission to the inquiry. While the Government's submission to the inquiry will be consistent with your motion, obviously we will be emphasising the impact on the Upper Murrumbidgee River rather than the Snowy River, simply because it is the Murrumbidgee that has the most impact on the ACT. We will show our interest in what happens to the Snowy River through our support for environmental flows for all rivers, but we will be making a particular case for the preservation and regeneration of aquatic ecosystems in the Upper Murrumbidgee because of the Murrumbidgee's importance to this Territory.

Mr Speaker, I think it would be fair to say that all members here would have a keen interest in the environment. I personally have an interest in what happens to the Upper Murrumbidgee, given that its diversion to the Snowy scheme happens upriver from us. This is supported by our representation on the Upper Murrumbidgee Catchment Management Committee, which I understand has produced a strategy for the management of the catchment area. Ms Tucker raised the issue of willows along the river. We are currently developing our willow strategy, which is very important to the future of all our rivers.

We take very seriously our responsibility for the management of the assets that our rivers are. Like most of our environmental management, however, it will require us to work cooperatively with our neighbours. I thank Ms Tucker for her interest in this issue. We will be making a submission to the inquiry. I am happy for your input on the form that our submission should take. We will be advocating a move to the concept of environmental flows being built into the decision-making process on water release from the Snowy scheme.

MR BERRY (11.57): One thing we can be confident about is that if the Murrumbidgee irrigation scheme and the Snowy Mountains scheme were being considered today it is very likely that they would not happen, for many of the reasons which have been talked about in the course of this debate. At the time, those ideas were developed into a massive scheme which made a great impact on the future of Australia and in particular this region. If it were not for the Snowy scheme, Old Adaminaby would still be there and Cooma would be quite different, as would the rivers in the region, including the Murrumbidgee as it passes through the ACT.

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