Page 2497 - Week 09 - Tuesday, 6 August 2013

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the Water Resources Regulation 2007 to bring the ACT legislation into line with water resource laws in other states and territories. As a signatory to the national framework for compliance and enforcement systems for water resource management, the ACT is required to work towards water resource enforcement laws that include consistent compliance and enforcement measures, including infringement notices, disciplinary action, sanctions and criminal offences. Adequate and appropriate penalty levels are also required under the national framework. This bill focuses on the protection of water resources.

The bill introduces two strict liability offences. The first relates to a failure to submit a bore completion report to the Environment Protection Authority within the required time frame. This provision aims to ensure that bore completion reports are lodged in a reasonable time to ensure that information about groundwater and potential extraction points is available for water resource management.

The second strict liability offence relates to a person undertaking waterway work without a waterway work licence. This provision aims to ensure that unauthorised waterway work is not carried out and is enforced with a small penalty due to the relatively low environmental impact.

It has been noted that the use of strict liability offences engages the presumption of innocence because there are no-fault elements included in these offences. However, we accept the minister’s justification that this is actually the best way to achieve the purpose intended for these amendments since the prosecutor is in a position to assess whether an offence has been committed and the minor offences can be punished.

I am pleased the minister has taken the scrutiny committee’s recommendation on board and amended the explanatory statement to include a specific reference to the two defences available for strict liability offences. The new strict liability offences are intended to be linked to a new infringement notice scheme.

The bill clarifies the definition of a drillers licence to make it clear that an ACT drillers licence is required to drill bores in the ACT. An interstate licence is not sufficient. The bill removes the exemption from requiring a licence which currently applies to the taking of water for roadworks, earthworks, construction and landscaping. This ensures that taking water for these activities is regulated and unauthorised taking will be subject to appropriate penalties. A licence to take water for these uses may be granted and a water access entitlement is not required provided that the activity will result in improved environmental outcomes or other public benefit.

Finally, the bill makes it a criminal offence to tamper with a water meter. The definition of “tampering with a water meter” is broad. However, the section does not apply to a person prescribed by regulation who is installing, maintaining, repairing or replacing a water meter or acting with the written permission of the authority or the holder of a licence to take water. This offence is comparable to the meter-tampering offence in New South Wales.

In conclusion, the opposition will support this bill. However, we express some reservations about the potential implementation of the new provisions. The Canberra

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