Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 10 Hansard (26 November) . . Page.. 3101 ..
MR OSBORNE (continuing):
I admit to initially being attracted to Ms Tucker's amendments which would remove all references to water allocations in the legislation, but I am less nervous about allocations now. I do find it odd that the Labor Party are opposing the system of water allocations when their introduction was such an integral part of the COAG agreement signed on behalf of the Territory by the former ALP Chief Minister, Ms Follett.
Mr Deputy Speaker, given that the proper use of water has such importance for us, my preference is for us to err on the side of caution with this legislation. The biggest concern I still have about this Bill is in regard to clause 7, which establishes crown rights to all water in the Territory other than ground water under land which is subject to an existing lease of Territory land before the Bill is passed.
I accept that the Government intends to provide a free water allocation to holders of existing rural leases, and this clause in part provides for that. However, I believe there is still doubt as to how a rural lessee will be affected if they transfer their existing lease to take up a new 99-year lease which will soon be made available to them. I would like an assurance from the Minister now that under this legislation any lessee who transfers to a 99-year lease will be able to take their water allocation with them.
I also intended to table an amendment today to change the Government's proposed amendment No. 14 in regard to the size of a dam which may be constructed without a permit, to bring us into line with recent changes in New South Wales. I have not had the time to have that amendment drafted, Mr Deputy Speaker, as I have had other things on my plate over the last couple of weeks. I am prepared, however, to pass the Government's amendment as it stands today and to table amending legislation to this clause in February.
Mr Deputy Speaker, residents of the ACT are fortunate that the founders of the Territory 100 years ago had the foresight to place such a great emphasis on the availability of water, as I do not think it was expected that Canberra would ever grow to the size it is now. These concerns were raised by the president of the Rural Lessee's Association when he came to my office a number of weeks ago, and I think they are serious concerns that the Government needs to address when they close the debate today.
MR SMYTH (Minister for Urban Services) (4.43), in reply: Mr Deputy Speaker, I thank members for their comments and at least their agreement that this is important legislation and that we should debate it. Although we have difficulties, perhaps, on trading and allocations, the acknowledgment from all that we should proceed with this Bill is most appreciated.
Mr Corbell started by acknowledging the importance of the Bill, and I thank him for that. He has always had difficulties with the system of allocations, and I would appreciate his position on that. It is interesting, Mr Deputy Speaker, that in all other jurisdictions there is some form of trading, and there always has been. The ACT lags in having legislation that covers water. All the other jurisdictions have long histories, in the main, of trading in water resources. It is curious that currently, in the Mallee region, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia are trialling cross-jurisdiction trading.