Page 2427 - Week 08 - Thursday, 6 June 2013

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I am pleased to advise the Assembly that the government agrees with the majority of the commissioner’s recommendations. The job of implementing them will take many years, for there are no quick fixes when it comes to water quality. It is also a job for a number of stakeholders, not least the commonwealth’s National Capital Authority, with its ongoing role as lake manager, responsible for the lake waters themselves and its immediate foreshores, as well as our neighbouring local government areas in New South Wales who control the catchments that feed in to the lake.

The government has asked ACTEW Water to report back on the concerns about sewage system leaks and welcomes the National Capital Authority’s introduction of water mixers and macrophytes into the lake. Queanbeyan City Council’s quick action to test its sewage system for leaks is also a welcome indicator of their concerns about the lake. The government will continue to work with the task force members and community organisations on catchment management issues to address the required activities in the reports.

Addressing the issues impacting on lake water quality will require concerted coordinated efforts over many years. Members of the Assembly will be aware that the current parliamentary agreement between the Labor Party and the Greens party commits the government to work towards the establishment of a catchment management authority in the ACT. The government is considering options for the form and scope of such an authority and it is mindful of the potential such an authority will have in improving catchment management in the ACT and region.

The government has also submitted a business case identifying the clear benefits from accessing funds to invest in improving overall catchment health in the territory through commonwealth basin priority projects, consistent with the 2008 Council of Australian Governments Agreement on Murray-Darling Basin reform.

To inform this business case, the government recently commissioned detailed and comprehensive hydrological modelling of all ACT catchments. Using a systems analysis approach now being employed in other jurisdictions, the modelling shows that lakes and ponds have significant accumulated nutrient, pollutant and sediment loads. This reflects their meeting original design objectives which had overlooked their longer-term functioning, with excessive pollutant load build-up creating future source points for poor water quality and pollution downstream.

Changes will need to be made to catchment management to alter water quality inflows into and through the lakes and manage the release of these nutrients further downstream. This work will not only address lake water quality; it will minimise the impact the ACT has on the Murrumbidgee and the wider Murray-Darling Basin.

While these initiatives play out, the government will invite members of the Lake Burley Griffin task force to continue to meet and work together to advance water quality and catchment management through the implementation of the detailed action plan.

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