Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 2 Hansard (21 May) . . Page.. 452 ..
MR SMYTH (continuing):
When my colleague Minister Gary Humphries introduced the Bill in 1997 he made a number of important comments in his presentation speech. I would like to repeat a number of these comments before outlining some of the improvements which have been made over the 1997 Bill. In comparison with the States and Territories, the ACT has few natural resources. The Territory's water resources are among our most significant. They are an integral and valued part of our natural landscape, and they are absolutely critical to the future economic development of the Territory. The Government is therefore committed to water resources management which maximises the overall returns to the community while maintaining their ecological values.
The ACT is the only State or Territory which has no means of actively managing its water resources to provide for a system of water allocations or entitlements. In the past this was not recognised as a problem as there has been little difficulty in meeting demand for water from available supplies, particularly in times when subsidies for dam building were readily available. I must emphasise, Mr Speaker, that development of legislation is only the first step in improving the management of our water resources. Once the legislation is in place, necessary information can be collected and then actual water allocation arrangements will be developed in consultation with stakeholders.
Mr Speaker, some of the major elements of the Bill are worth noting. It is important to note that this Bill is only the first step in moving towards sound water resource management in the Territory. It establishes the capacity for the Government to act on this matter. However, there is a long way to go in developing water allocation and licensing arrangements and any associated charges, which will be done through a program of community consultation. Existing users will be issued with allocations reflecting their current usage. The transitional arrangements provide a period of 12 months during which licences will be issued. Through this legislation we will for the first time be able to effectively manage our water resources to ensure that the health of our waterways is protected and to ensure the maintenance of a community's physical, economic and social wellbeing.
Mr Speaker, a number of amendments have been made to the Water Resources Bill 1998 as compared to the 1997 Bill. A new part has been added which requires the production of a water resources management plan. This plan, which will be a disallowable instrument, will give the ACT the opportunity to clearly set out the future direction of water management in the Territory. The Bill requires that the water allocations which the Government intends to create will be set out in the management plan. This will give the Assembly control over the allocation of water and ensure that members' concerns about selling all of the Territory's water resources are eased.
Mr Speaker, the number of decisions which are subject to appeal has increased dramatically following comments from a number of stakeholders. The Bill also includes further notification provisions, to ensure that the community is aware of the granting of licences and other issues which may affect them. These changes and other minor ones ensure that this Bill will provide good protection for this most important resource. I commend the Water Resources Bill 1998 to the Assembly.
Debate (on motion by Mr Rugendyke) adjourned.