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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 13 Hansard (26 November) . . Page.. 4681 ..

Draft water strategy

MRS DUNNE: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Minister for Environment, Mr Stanhope. Minister, in your aspirational statement "Think water, act water", which received a surprise launch last Friday, you claim that Canberra's water consumption was 621/2 gigalitres per annum. That was before the impact of water restrictions. This is much less than the 70.9 gigalitres shown in the Murray-Darling Basin's 2001-02 Water audit released earlier this year or the 76 gigalitres shown in the 2003 Natural resources atlas. It is also considerably less than the per capita consumption rate shown on the Actew website.

Yesterday in question time, minister, you denied that you had fudged the figures to present a rosier picture of water availability in the ACT. How do you account for these differences in water consumption predicted?

MR STANHOPE: I acknowledge Mrs Dunne's interest in the minute detail of the water strategy. I can see it has been given a very close reading. I think there is one aspect of this sort of questioning that we, as members of the Assembly, do need to dwell on, and that actually goes to the extent that this juvenile questioning of a technical detail in a major draft strategy really is an attempt, purportedly, to attack me as the minister.

Of course, as we all know, the document was prepared, after enormous and detailed consultation with the community and a whole range of community providers, by officers of Environment ACT, Actew, ActewAGL and the Office of Sustainability. The document essentially represents the combined skill, expertise and knowledge of Environment ACT, Actew, ActewAGL, the Office of Sustainability and all those community organisations in the ACT with an interest in the environment and conservation.

Mrs Dunne notes that there is not unanimity across documents and different reports in relation to water consumption figures-one document refers to a consumption of 66 gigalitres and another refers to a consumption of 70-and in some way this variation, this discrepancy, of 4 gigalitres in two separate documents represents some heinous failing by me as minister. That is just bunkum.

Mr Smyth: Are you feeling guilty?

MR STANHOPE: I don't feel a bit guilty about it. I must say that I have absolutely no idea how our officials and our instrumentalities measure water consumption; I have not got a clue. I assume they have a little tap with a gauge on it somewhere. But I have no idea.

I am more than happy to go away and ask Actew, ActewAGL, the Office of Sustainability, Environment ACT and the conservation council-and as a result of this question I will-how they made this dramatic claim in this document that we only consumed 66 gigalitres of water last year. I will actually ask them all to explain where the figure came from and I will ask them to check their maths.

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