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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 8 Hansard (29 October) . . Page.. 2480 ..

MR HIRD (continuing):

a public hearing. We held a public hearing on 4 September this year. Actually, we held both a public hearing and a public meeting. The public hearing component was to hear government officials and members of the public. The public meeting component was to give members of the public an opportunity to raise questions concerning the Government's proposals on this important matter. In essence, what we did was combine the State-type role with the local government role, rather similar to the traditional town hall type of meeting. This proved a very successful exercise, and we commend it to other committees within the parliament.

The committee has carefully considered the many matters raised by the public. Our report is unanimous on all points except one. My colleague Mr Corbell has dissented from the proposal to allow for trading and sale of water allocations - and I dare say he will comment on that - but on other points we are as one. We recommend that some specific improvements should be made to the manner in which the proposed environmental flow guidelines are determined. We recommend that they take account of a broad range of factors and that public comment be a prerequisite of their preparation. I commend the report to the parliament.

MR CORBELL (3.57): Mr Speaker, this is in many respects one of the most important inquiries that the Standing Committee on Urban Services has undertaken since the Fourth Assembly convened. It is important because we are dealing with nothing less than the future management of the Territory's water resources and establishing a new regime for the management of those resources. Whilst in almost all respects the committee has come to a unanimous view on the important range of issues that were before it, there is one issue on which I have raised some serious concerns and that is the reason why I chose to issue a dissenting report.

Mr Speaker, what concerned me during the period of the hearings the committee undertook into the Water Resources Bill and the proposed amendments to the Bill was the notion of the sale and trading of water allocations. I was not convinced that the provisions proposed by the Government would adequately protect and ensure the continued provision of clean, safe drinking water for the ACT into the future, and I was concerned that the proposed sale of allocations could ultimately result in the Territory's valuable resources becoming overcommitted as a result of a competitive water trading market. These were concerns that obviously I tested during the private and public hearings that the committee conducted. In my discussions with various officers of Environment ACT I was not convinced that the scenarios that I raised could be prevented by the proposals being put forward by the Government. That is fundamentally the reason for my dissent.

My concerns are exacerbated by the fact that the Government is proposing a new regime for the management of the ACT's water resources and infrastructure through the privatisation and franchising of ACTEW's operations. If that goes ahead, Mr Speaker, I feel that the possibilities for effective regulatory control will be weakened rather than strengthened and the potential threat I see to the ACT's water supplies will be even greater.

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