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Thursday, 30 May 2013
Page: 4534


Ms RISHWORTH (KingstonParliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers and Parliamentary Secretary for Sustainability and Urban Water) (10:08): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Australian Capital Territory Water Management Legislation Amendment Bill 2013 is another step in the improvement of water governance in the Murray-Darling Basin. This bill will allow the ACT government to manage water abstraction on national land in the ACT, enabling the Commonwealth and the ACT to fulfil their obligations under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, which was made in November last year. The management of water on national land in the ACT is currently a Commonwealth function.

The Australian Capital Territory Water Management Legislation Amendment Bill 2013 facilitates the implementation of the Basin Plan and will enable the ACT to prepare a Basin Plan compliant water resource plan. Under the Basin Plan the ACT is required to prepare a water resource plan that covers all the territory's water resources, as well as the Googong Dam. Googong Dam water resources, while managed by the territory for the purposes of supplying water to the territory, are a Commonwealth water resource located on New South Wales land. Through amendments to the Australian Capital Territory (Planning and Land Management) Act 1988 (PALM Act), the Water Act 2007 and the Canberra Water Supply (Googong Dam) Act 1974, this bill provides the appropriate legislative backing for the ACT to prepare a Basin Plan compliant water resource plan.

For over a century, the Murray-Darling Basin has not been managed with a basin-wide plan. This has resulted in environmental degradation, a lack of resilience and an ongoing layer of uncertainty for basin communities. Murray-Darling Basin reform has relied on a number of steps being taken: the National Water Initiative, the development of water markets, the Water Act 2007 and the making of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan last year. The Basin Plan will restore the health of our rivers, support strong regional communities and ensure sustainable food production.

This bill amends the Australian Capital Territory (Planning and Land Management) Act 1988 (PALM Act), 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 and can be managed by the ACT consistent with the Basin Plan.

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 its Water Resources Act 2007. This will be achieved by amendments to associated Commonwealth legislative instruments so that all the take of water is covered by the ACT's Water Resources Act 2007.

This bill also amends the Water Act 2007 to enable the Googong Dam area to be included in a water resource plan area for which the ACT has responsibility to prepare a water resource plan. These amendments, along with those being made to provide the ACT the power to plan for all water resources managed by the territory, will provide the legislative backing required for the ACT to prepare a Basin Plan compliant water resource plan.

This bill 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. 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.

National water reform is an ongoing process and the making of the Basin Plan was a critical step forward in this regard. The reforms to water governance arrangements set out in this bill are another small but important step to help maintain the momentum towards improved water management outcomes and ultimately resource sustainability through the implementation of the Basin Plan in the ACT.

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.

I commend this bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.

Ordered that the second reading be made an order of the day for the next sitting day.