Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 1 Hansard (29 April) . . Page.. 135 ..
MR HARGREAVES (continuing):
I had occasion to visit the area only two weeks ago, after a constituent called me and asked me to go there and check it out because, in his words, the river was dying. My constituent, who has enjoyed fly-fishing for some 30 years, believes in a partnership between his sport and nature. He was particularly concerned that the death of that river would adversely affect the wildlife dependent on it. For example, he was concerned about a family of platypus he had observed there on a number of occasions. Platypus will not move elsewhere. They would die.
My constituent was also concerned that native fish in the river were dropping in number because insufficient water was coming down the system. As we know, the volume of water coming down the system determines the shape of the riverbed because it affects the amount of sand thrown to the outsides of the watercourse on bends. At the junction of the road and the Gudgenby River a sandbank is building up in the middle of the river and splitting the river in half. Willows in this part of the river need to be removed. This introduced species is destroying the natural environment.
When we look at how we address these dying rivers, we need to give some consideration to riverbed constructs. I am sure there are experts in the Minister's department who can lay out what the river looked like before interference from introduced willow trees, from rocks and from bitumen at the bottom of the river at the site of an old ford. Along this river there is also evidence of human activity. That is fine if people respect the environment of the river and leave it in a pristine state, allowing the natural wildlife that frequents the place to get on and do their thing too. My constituent is concerned that the human element in this area is contributing to the destruction of the river. I think that needs to be looked into.
Mr Speaker, I would commend Ms Tucker's motion to the Assembly. We should be concerned not only with the water flows mentioned in her motion but also with the whole ecosystem associated with our rivers. I would extend her concerns about the Murrumbidgee to the tributaries of the Murrumbidgee.
MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Community Safety and Minister Assisting the Treasurer) (12.08): Mr Speaker, I attended the last meeting of the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council. As you might expect, the issues which are contained in this motion were the subject of some debate at that meeting. That meeting was significant for the ACT because it represented the culmination of a program we had put in place to finalise membership by the ACT of the Murray-Darling Basin Commission.
It always seemed very strange to us that the largest community within the basin, indeed the largest inland city in Australia, was not a member of the Murray-Darling Basin Commission. After we had argued over a number of years for membership, our efforts culminated in a decision at the last meeting to admit the ACT. I had the privilege of being present for the signing of the documents to admit the ACT. We are now full partners in these debates. The debates are pretty critical at the moment because of the pass that this particular issue of water management has reached. The drought afflicting much of eastern Australia at the moment has had extremely serious consequences for river flows, for riparian uses of water and for the management of human consumption, drinking water and so on in drought areas.