Page 1837 - Week 06 - Thursday, 5 May 2005

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interests of ACT residential and commercial consumers by protecting the infrastructure and systems that deliver essential service supplies. I therefore commend the Utilities (Shortage of Essential Services) Amendment Bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mr Smyth) adjourned to the next sitting.

Water Resources Amendment Bill 2005

Mr Stanhope, pursuant to notice, presented the bill, its explanatory statement and a Human Rights Act compatibility statement.

Title read by Clerk.

MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for the Environment and Minister for Arts, Heritage and Indigenous Affairs) (10.37): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

This bill is part of a series of steps to enable the current inefficient administration system present under the Water Resources Act 1998 to be transformed into a system that takes into consideration community values of the water resources.

Currently, when people seek access to surface water or ground water, their applications are processed on a first come, first served basis, with minimal consideration of the proposed use of the water. If all the water available for abstraction has been accessed, new applications are likely to be refused. This holds true even if the new application is for a beneficial community purpose such as watering of public gardens or public-accessed school ovals. A more efficient and equitable system would consider principles allowing water to be used for its highest good.

The bill will enable the current system to be halted through implementation of a moratorium on new water access decisions while consultation is undertaken to develop a new administration scheme. It is anticipated that the moratorium will need to be held for approximately a year to allow for the consultation process and the implementation of changes.

The government recognises the value of ensuring comprehensive and timely investigation into water resource management and has undertaken a number of scientific studies so that administration of our water resources is based on up-to-date advice. But administration of our resources is not just about the environment. We need to consider the social and economic considerations of sustainable management.

Development of an administration scheme that allows community values to be considered will allow the current first come, first served procedure to be superseded and, through consultation, allow social principles for water use identified. It will also address the inequities raised by many in the community when they see ground water being used by some residents to avoid water restrictions that the majority of people in Canberra have adopted with such concerted effort.

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