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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 10 Hansard (26 November) . . Page.. 3102 ..

MR SMYTH (continuing):

I want to make it quite clear that this Bill places overall control of our water resources firmly in the hands of the Government and the Assembly. I am disappointed that Mr Corbell does not believe that the Assembly can control, through a disallowable instrument, the allocation of water. While there will be a market in water, we are talking about a sophisticated reform designed to ensure that water is treated as a precious resource and is not wasted. It will not be a discount sale. It will not be some sort of bazaar. The water resources management plan is subject to Assembly scrutiny. The formal conditions of water allocations are under the control of the Government and will regulate the market. They will, for example, strictly limit the quantity of water that can be traded after allowing for priority uses such as environmental flows as well as a generous reserve for the future. We are going to put away all the water that we need, a generous reserve, and then set in place a system that will allow, under the scrutiny of the Assembly, through a disallowable instrument, the trade of water.

Specifically, the plan and conditions of allocation for urban water supply will prohibit the trading of water allocated for urban water supply. There is no scenario in the future which will allow a commercial water supplier to even contemplate selling off part of that allocation. If members do not trust the Government on our ability to deliver this, they are well able to amend the water resource management plan when it is tabled in the Assembly. If you listened to some of the comments you would almost think there would be tankers from Victoria coming down Northbourne Avenue to spirit away our water, as it were.

I think there is some misunderstanding on how a trading system works. Trading is not about selling off water as such, and it is certainly not about selling water that has been treated for urban supply; but it is about using the market to adjust the competing needs of commercial users and bulk water. Mr Deputy Speaker, a person who sells his allocation loses the right to take that water, and he leaves it there for somebody else to take at a different place, using the allocation that they have purchased.

Mr Kaine was very generous in alerting me to some of his concerns and I thank him for that. He raised the issue about ACTEW not being enshrined in legislation. ACTEW has a commercial role. It already has that commercial role. Whether ownership changes in the future or not, it still will have a commercial role. It will be consulted as an industry player, but it does not need to be covered by the legislation.

Mr Kaine also raised issues about ground water run-off. New South Wales has just limited the amount of harvesting of ground water, the run-off, that rural lessees or rural property owners can do in New South Wales to 10 per cent of that run-off without a licence. This is a recognition in New South Wales that that run-off is essential to the life of rivers. Existing dams cannot be modified without compensation being paid under clause 70, and future dams initially will have to have approval. Should they be modified, it would be with compensation payable. In terms of looking at the total system, the harvesting of that surface water is an important issue in the way that it contributes to the all-up life of that ecosystem.

Mr Kaine also mentioned the take-up of water tanks. I think something like 34 Canberrans have now installed water tanks next to their houses. I think it is a good system and I would certainly encourage people to look at it if they have the ability and the facility to put a water tank on their houses.

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