Page 2871 - Week 09 - Thursday, 18 August 2005

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As has been mentioned, the EPA will appeal against the matter to the Court of Appeal. The matter is not listed for hearing until November 2005. In the case of Rashleigh and the EPA, the applicant applied for a licence for a bore for a particular period and was denied. The Supreme Court found that denial was a denial of property rights. If the Supreme Court so found in Rashleigh, it might also find the moratorium to grant new licences for bores for two years is equally a denial of property rights.

I believe lessees’ rights to water gardens are very important, given the stated government policy is to preserve our garden city and to preserve what the government likes to call the urban forest. Our heritage and planning laws set great store by the layout and look of our suburbs and people with large blocks that cannot be subdivided, particularly in the areas of Red Hill and Forrest, need to work hard at maintaining the investment of years of painstaking work. The current water restriction regimes make this work quite difficult—indeed, one would argue impossible—without recourse to private bores. The government is making the important task of preserving that urban amenity impossible.

As Mrs Dunne has indicated, this matter should be adjourned until we know what the Court of Appeal rules in Rashleigh. In the meantime, the EPA can continue its investigation into the control of surface and ground water and come up with more solid material in terms of what is available and what is the impact of the current usage levels, which are by no means carrying a measure of certainty. I am that sorry the Greens have held to their position without considering the weight of argument that Mrs Dunne has put. I think it is always worth while—

Dr Foskey: I would have appreciated a discussion beforehand.

MR MULCAHY: Dr Foskey has said that they should have talked about it further. I do believe that there are very sound issues that have been raised here that therefore warrant reconsideration of established positions. I do not think it pays necessarily to come in here ideologically blind on some of these matters. We need to consider the rights of many of the residents of Canberra. We need to understand the challenges that are presented to people in maintaining the look of our city, notwithstanding the water restrictions that are in place. I would certainly ask the government to reconsider aspects of the legislation they have brought before this house.

MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for the Environment and Minister for Arts, Heritage and Indigenous Affairs) (11.06), in reply: I thank members for their contribution to the debate. I accept the difficulty that the imposition of a moratorium in such circumstances does represent for some members of the community. However, it is important to understand fully the basis and the reasons that the government is pursuing this initiative of applying a moratorium and why it is that it is reviewing the way in which the Water Resources Act operates, particularly in relation to ground water and access to ground water within the ACT.

The ACT, or Canberra, is not well-endowed with ground water. We do not have a great artesian basin beneath the city. There is, we believe—and our science is not as great as we would like—a very limited supply of ground water or artesian water serving the ACT. We do issue licences to the limit of what we believe to be the sustainable yield and, as members are aware, the government is progressively undertaking research and

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