Page 2264 - Week 08 - Tuesday, 4 August 2015

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I am really pleased the group includes an independent chair as I think that this will certainly enhance its credibility and bring new issues to the table. Perhaps also the right person will bring people out of their jurisdictional corners and assist the group with navigating the best interests of the catchment, and that is what has been sadly lacking, along with just some basic coordination. I am also pleased that the minister agreed to include a community representative on the group. One thing we have learned over the past few years is that the community have a strong and ongoing interest in the health of our waterways. People are passionate about their local lakes and creeks, and they invest considerable time and effort in helping to protect them. We need to include the community in this group to ensure that we continue to hear what the community has to say and to respect the significant work the community invests into our waterways.

The bill establishes a formal annual reporting mechanism to the minister, and annual reports are required to be tabled in the Assembly. I note that section 67 states that in exercising its functions the coordination group must try to encourage early and effective information sharing between members of the group and any relevant agency or community group. I encourage the coordination group to adopt a culture of transparency and cooperativeness from the start as I believe there are stakeholders who are keen and interested and who want to be actively engaged in debates about our catchment. I hope there will not be a situation where we simply get one annual report and that is all we hear but that there is that level of ongoing discussion and engagement. I am sure that is the intent with the group, and I look forward to seeing that come to fruition.

There is no doubt that the establishment of this group is a huge step up in regard to the cross-jurisdictional coordination of actions occurring in our catchment, and I look forward to hearing that it is making a difference. The ACT cannot direct the actions of our jurisdictional partners in this regard, but we can invite them to participate and ask for their cooperation as we seek to solve some of the problems that face our waterways. I believe those other jurisdictional representatives will be pleased to participate, although it is going to be very important that we listen to what they have to say and value their contributions to the discussions.

In regard to the basin priority project, there are clearly going to be some ongoing challenges ahead. For one, the ACT is going to need to give consideration to the issue of ongoing funding for maintenance of infrastructure, both old and new, and also ensure that new infrastructure delivers both the best value for money and improvements in water quality and amenity.

The $85 million that has been allocated is nowhere near enough to undertake all the projects that could improve water quality in the ACT, so it will be important for the money to be spent judiciously. It will also be important to take the community on that journey, and I am heartened to hear that consultation with interested community groups has been ongoing and that consultation with the wider community is being undertaken. The next few years are an exciting time for the ACT’s waterways. This bill will help deliver better outcomes for our waterways, and I am pleased on behalf of the ACT Greens to support it today.

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