Page 2869 - Week 09 - Thursday, 18 August 2005

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pleased to see that changes to the amendments have been proposed that take into account comments from the scrutiny of bills committee. It can be quite demoralising to sit on a committee and produce report after report, but in this case we actually had a positive result. So that is something. I note, of course, that the government can easily obtain the Assembly’s approval while it has a majority in the Assembly and I hope it is just as interested in continuing that approach in the next Assembly when it may not have one.

As the report makes clear, it is often a fine line balancing administrative convenience with principles of justice. In fact, we see this bill as a very welcome initiative because not only will guidelines and criteria be established to guide decision making related to the issuing of licences to take or allocate water, but also, according to the minister’s tabling speech, there will be considerable scope for community input to the process, and this is welcome. We are hopeful that the work funded in the new 2005-06 budget allocation to study ground water resources will also inform this process.

Given the limited knowledge we have about ground water processes, particularly the effect of bore water abstraction on our aquifers, we look forward to the research findings from the four observation and monitoring bores in the priority subcatchments in the ACT. We see this work as very important and perhaps even a little overdue. As the demand for ground water is increasing in the ACT and as water restrictions continue, it is imperative that we gain a better understanding of our water resources. As you will all be aware, the Greens have been strong advocates of the need to fully implement and investigate ways in which we can conserve and efficiently use our water as the best strategy for managing this scarce resource.

We were also pleased to see in the Canberra Times recently that Actew’s Chief Executive, Michael Costello, had announced that the ACT has enough water until at least 2023 without a new dam. I do not think that Mr Costello has a crystal ball. However, in this case we agree. The Greens have consistently said that we do not need a new dam. With careful water resource management in the ACT, there is already more than enough water available for our basic needs. That was confirmed at a forum I was at last night where Mr Paul Perkins, who probably knows our water resources as well as anyone, said that we are the most well off of the capital cities in terms of being able to meet our environmental flow requirements and provide water for our needs.

Nevertheless, there is still a need for people to be further educated about wise water use and to think hard about appropriate water use in a dry country and harder still about what is an appropriate landscape in a dry inland city. This amending bill provides another opportunity for these principles to guide important decisions about water use in the ACT. I agree with the minister’s comment that it is important that non-potable water use is managed efficiently so that holistic management of the water resources of the ACT occurs.

We agree with the other main change that this bill provides for, which is to allow Actew to take water from different catchments so long as, in doing so, it does not exceed its total water allocations across all catchments, so long as environmental flows are maintained, as required under the guidelines, and so long as there is scientific oversight to ensure that there is no adverse impact on aquatic habitats.

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