Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 10 Hansard (26 November) . . Page.. 3096 ..
MR HIRD (continuing):
In regard to those guidelines, we should have regard to the broadest range of environmental, social and economic factors, reflecting the broad definition of environment in the legislation, and I think he has done that. To my understanding the Bill specifies the process to be used in determining the guidelines. This process includes a requirement to obtain public comment on the proposed guidelines. This would have the effect of not putting the whole onus upon the Assembly to consider a motion to disallow the guidelines once they had been determined by the Minister. This revised Bill does just that. Before the Minister determines those guidelines, he should refer them to the appropriate committee. Indeed, at the end, the Minister has brought in that recommendation.
I was intrigued to hear Mr Kaine say that nowhere in this legislation does it identify the flow guidelines. The committee recommended that rural lessees and ACTEW should be closely involved. That was the point Mr Kaine raised. I dare say the Minister will elaborate further in respect to that. The committee would be deeply disturbed if the guidelines had the effect of bringing forward the date of construction of a new dam or if they in any way hindered the reuse of water, whether of effluent or other water. The committee considers that the impact of the legislation should be assessed by an independent environmental auditor once it has been in place for two years. I notice that that is exactly what the Government or the Minister intends to do.
I think in the main that the effort that was put in by my committee has been vindicated. The Minister is to be complimented because those who gave evidence at our public hearings have been listened to. The recommendations put forward on their behalf to the Government have been accepted where possible.
The other matter that concerns me relates to the rural lessees in the Murrumbidgee corridor and access to water for stock. This is a question that our committee is coming to grips with. There are pluses and minuses. If, for generations, a rural lessee has had access to water stock from that area, the Murrumbidgee corridor, you just cannot turn it off overnight. You have to gradually ease it in if that is the intent and make other arrangements if it is warranted. You must look at the number of stock in question - I believe it was fewer than 50 head that we were talking of - but that is another matter for another report at another time.
In the main, I am delighted with the response by the Minister, as always. Our efforts on behalf of those who gave evidence to our committee is well appreciated, not only by the Minister but by the Government.
MS TUCKER (4.26): I also welcome the move to establish controls over the management of water in the ACT. The management of water has been an important aspect of Canberra's planning right from when the ACT was first mapped out. The decision-makers of the time showed real vision by ensuring that the ACT boundary would include sufficient water catchments, primarily the Cotter River but also the Paddys and Gudgenby rivers, so that the future city of Canberra would have a ready supply of water.