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Thursday, 19 November 2009
Page: 12200


Dr KELLY (Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Support and Parliamentary Secretary for Water) (9:28 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Australian Capital Territory and Other Legislation Amendment (Water Management) Bill 2009 is another step in the reform of water governance in Australia.

Over the last century, as our water resources have been increasingly drawn on, the impacts on the environment and between competing users have intensified. Water resource management has been characterised by tension between governments and the competing interests of water users, which has hindered reform and encouraged self-interested decision making.

The overallocation of water resources, the effects of climate change and the reduced inflow of water into river and catchment systems has necessitated a shift towards cooperation and collaboration between governments and users.

The 1994 Council of Australian Governments water reform framework and subsequent initiatives recognised that better management of Australia’s water resources required national action.

As a result, states and territories have made considerable progress towards more efficient and sustainable water management. The National Water Initiative, the NWI, complemented and realised the benefits intended by the 1994 COAG agreement.

The objectives of the NWI are to improve the efficiency of water use and establish clear pathways to return all water sources to environmentally sustainable levels. Full implementation of the NWI will result in a nationally compatible planning system for water resource management.

The Water Act 2007 and the Water Amendment Act 2008 built on the objectives of the NWI and introduced a new era of cooperative arrangements for water resource management between the Commonwealth, the states and the ACT.

The cooperation of the Commonwealth, the basin states and the ACT in the Murray-Darling Basin will ensure not only that the use of water resources within the basin states and ACT is sustainable but also that the use of water resources that transcend state boundaries is sustainable.

Consistent with these arrangements, the Commonwealth and the ACT government are cooperatively implementing the required mechanisms to allow the ACT government to manage water abstraction on national land in the ACT. This is currently a Commonwealth function.

The ACT government will now be able to plan and manage all water extraction in the ACT.

Currently there is only a small amount of water—well under one gigalitre—taken for consumptive purposes on national land in the ACT. Given the highly interlinked nature of water resources on national land and other ACT water resources, a dual system of regulation does not allow for the consistent and efficient management of water resources within the ACT.

The Commonwealth through this bill continues to lead the way in building a national approach of cooperative water resource management.

Thus, the primary purpose of the Australian Capital Territory and Other Legislation Amendment (Water Management) Bill 2009 is to amend the Australian Capital Territory (Planning and Land Management) Act 1988, which regulates the management of land in the ACT, so the abstraction of water on national land is no longer managed by the Commonwealth government.

Into the future, the abstraction of water on national land, as well as the abstraction of water by Commonwealth agencies throughout the ACT, will be managed by the ACT government under their Water Resources Act 2007.

This will be achieved by amendments to associated Commonwealth legislative instruments and ACT legislation by the ACT Legislative Assembly.

This will ensure that key objectives of the NWI are met and territory and national water resources are managed in a consistent manner.

The bill also amends the Canberra Water Supply (Googong Dam) Act 1974 to ensure that the ACT executive has the necessary powers to fully manage the surface waters of the Googong Dam under the ACT Water Resources Act. Again, the aim of this amendment is to ensure that all water resources under ACT control are managed under a consistent framework.

This change will not affect any agreements reached by the Commonwealth, New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory governments on the supply of water to Queanbeyan.

This bill makes minor amendments to the Water Act 2007:

Firstly to provide that the water resources of the Googong Dam area are required to be included in a water resource plan area for which the ACT has responsibility to prepare a water resource plan.

Secondly to ensure that Commonwealth non-environmental use of water, particularly water used by the Department of Defence at its facilities, is taken account of when the basin plan is being prepared.

Thirdly to provide that the basin plan, and water resource plans prepared by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, may make provision for a matter by applying, adopting or incorporating any matter contained in an instrument as in force or existing at a particular time or as in force from time to time.

Fourthly the definition of ‘express amendment’ as it applies to the definition of ‘referring state’ is amended to conform with the equivalent definition in the state laws that refer legislative power to the Commonwealth to support the enactment of the referred provisions of the Water Act. These amendments make it clear that where the Water Act uses the term ‘referring state’ this means, as it has always meant, the basin states.

The bill also makes minor amendments to the water related provisions of the Trade Practices Act 1974, to clarify the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s power of delegation in respect of its functions under rules made under the Water Act 2007.

Finally, the bill makes minor amendments to the Water Amendment Act 2008 to clarify the term of appointment of the current Chief Executive Officer of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.

National water reform is an ongoing process.

However, small but important steps help maintain the momentum towards improved water management outcomes and ultimately resource sustainability.

For example, the operation of efficient water markets is central to achieving the objectives of the NWI. This bill will allow the establishment of compatible institutional and regulatory arrangements that facilitate intrastate and interstate trade and consistent pricing policies for all water extraction in the ACT.

More transparent and uniform arrangements will also allow the Botanical Garden to draw water from Lake Burley Griffin. The gardens currently draw water from ACT potable supply, putting significant burden on the ACT to provide processed potable water to the gardens.

The gardens do not require expensive processed water when more suitable raw water can be extracted directly from Lake Burley Griffin at a fraction of the cost. The new arrangements will permit the ACT and Commonwealth to share its total cap, allowing the gardens to draw water from Lake Burley Griffin, which is currently under Commonwealth control, without any increase in the overall water use within the catchment.

The Commonwealth government has committed to leading the way in water resource management to ensure a healthy balance between the environment and water users that will secure our water resources for future generations of Australians.

Cooperative, consistent and efficient management arrangements of water extraction within the ACT will have long-term benefits on the sustainability of water resources within the ACT.

The Australian Capital Territory and Other Legislation Amendment (Water Management) Bill 2009 is another small but integral part in the reform of water resource governance arrangements in Australia.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Coulton) adjourned.