Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 03 Hansard (Tuesday, 8 March 2005) . . Page.. 701 ..
that Canberra’s water supply is safe. The Australian drinking water guidelines from the National Health and Medical Research Council recognise, first of all, that sometimes pesticides need to be used in some water catchments. In the ACT this is only done in accordance with the guidelines produced by the National Health and Medical Research Council. Adherence to these guidelines ensures that the water supplied for drinking in the ACT is safe.
As part of the routine water quality monitoring program for Canberra’s water storages, ActewAGL undertakes testing for a range of commonly used agricultural herbicides and pesticides on a six-monthly basis. Until recently, as I am sure members would be aware, the Cotter reservoir was not been included in this assessment as it has not been used to supply drinking water. On 7 May last year herbicide and pesticide testing was undertaken in the lower Cotter reservoir when plans were being developed to use this reservoir. The government was planning to draw water from the lower Cotter reservoir for drinking water, so testing commenced of the reservoir.
Prior to its use in December 2004, the Cotter reservoir was again tested for a full range of physical and chemical parameters, including herbicides and pesticides. Testing did not identify the presence of any pesticides or herbicides. I want to stress that—testing did not identify the presence of any pesticides or herbicides. The last sampling and testing occurred on 2 December last year. Routine sampling in the lower Cotter catchment scheduled for March 2005 is being undertaken today—as we speak—and that is a routine sampling program. Additional water samples will also be collected from the outlet of the Mount Stromlo water treatment plant for herbicide and pesticide testing.
ACT Health continues to work with ACTEW, ActewAGL, Environment ACT and ACT Forests to ensure that a safe water supply is provided to the ACT community. The bottom line is that Canberra’s water is safe to drink and remains one the best water supplies in Australia. It is regrettable that the Canberra Times has chosen to cause undue alarm in the community over such a vital public health matter.
DR FOSKEY: My question is to the Chief Minister and it relates to the decision to replant the lower Cotter catchment with pines. As Mr Corbell mentioned, the Canberra Times has given this issue a bit of attention lately and last week scientists gave evidence that clearly indicates that replanting with pines is not a good option. In fact, it is the worst option for catchment management. We have also got economic advice that our pines have not provided, and are unlikely to provide, economic returns. Following the Treasurer’s response to my earlier question—notice paper No 6 of 17 February 2005, question 198—it is clear that the insurance policy is not an impediment to replanting with native species of grass and trees. Additionally, in response to that question, the Treasurer indicated that a comprehensive business case had been independently prepared and subsequently independently reviewed. Given the broader concerns being publicly debated about the decision to replant with pines, and the deleterious impact this is having on water quality now and potentially in the longer term, I ask the minister if he will now release the business case study titled “ACT Forests, reforestation review”, prepared by Jaakko Poyry Consulting, as well as the work undertaken by ACIL Tasman Consulting, who undertook the review of the business case study that was referred to in the minister’s answer to our question on notice.