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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 10 Hansard (26 November) . . Page.. 3093 ..

MR KAINE (continuing):

Mr Deputy Speaker, I have no great difficulty with the administration of the Bill coming under the Environment Management Authority, established under the Environment Protection Act, but I do find it odd that the Bill makes no reference to participation by ACTEW in the management of the Territory's water resources. I should have thought that involvement of ACTEW was an obvious element that the Bill should include.

Now, I know things have changed, or may change in the future, but this Bill has been written presumably on the basis of current needs and not a change that may or may not take place in the future, unless the Government is clairvoyant and can see what is going to happen in the future.

The Bill will most directly affect the rural sector - that is, farmers, graziers and horticulturalists who make significant private investment necessary for collecting, storing and delivering water used in primary production. The Bill needs to deal fairly, therefore, with those activities which impact more on the rural sector than on the urban population connected to ACTEW's reticulated system.

Country folk are, by and large, very careful about their water usage, not just because they have invested in it on top of what they contribute in their rates for providing water to the urban population, but more importantly because, when the water on the farm runs out, they cannot merely open a tap to get more or call on a water utility to solve the problem. I would feel great concern if the Bill made water issues any more difficult for rural folk than they already are. The administration of the Bill must take proper account of the needs of rural people and let them deal with water problems on a basis no more onerous than that which city dwellers do.

The Bill declares a crown property right in all water in the Territory. This principle was not in the Water Resources Bill introduced in 1997. However, I have no conceptual problems with it. But I wonder how it can be upheld in the case of streams which cross the Territory's border. While the border was designed to follow the main catchment areas, several major streams, as we all know, enter and leave the Territory. It seems to me to be dangerous, even presumptuous, to declare that the Territory has a property right in the water in those streams when the exercising of that right will obviously affect rights of people in New South Wales.

I am told that the intention is for the Bill to be administered in a way that essentially involves crown intrusions only in cases where water usage proposals would have a gross impact on the totality of the resource and that it is not intended that this Bill should circumscribe rural land-holders' entitlements to collect, store and deliver water within the boundaries of their land to meet their reasonable needs. It is a matter of regret, however, that the Bill does not declare this principle as forthrightly as it declares crown ownership of all the Territory's water.

I believe that the right of a rural land-holder to capture, store and use so much of the rain that falls on his land as is prudently necessary for his pastoral or horticultural or agricultural activities should be sacrosanct and unfettered. To fail to declare the specific right of a rural land-holder to provide adequately for the water supply needs of the land he occupies without having to undergo the bureaucratic process and the risk of refusal

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