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Wednesday, 13 November 2013
Page: 224


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate and Assistant Minister for Social Services) (15:44): I table the explanatory memorandum and move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

The Australian Capital Territory Water Management Legislation Amendment Bill 2013 (the Bill) demonstrates the Government's commitment to delivering the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in full and on time.

Key policy objectives of the Bill

The Bill is another step to improve the management of Murray-Darling Basin resources by making the appropriate level of government responsible for managing water in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) on a day to day basis. The ACT is part of the Murray-Darling Basin. Under current arrangements, the management of water on National Land in the ACT is a Commonwealth function. The ACT Government manages water on Territory land. The Bill will remove this dual management and streamline arrangements by providing the ACT Government with authority to manage all water abstraction in the ACT.

This legislative change will also enable the ACT, and Commonwealth water abstractors in the ACT, to fulfil their obligations under the Basin Plan.

The Bill further facilitates the implementation of the Basin Plan by enabling the ACT to fully manage surface waters of the Googong Dam. 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 NSW 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.

Broader policy strategies

The Basin Plan was adopted in November 2012, recognising the importance of restoring health to the Murray-Darling Basin and providing certainty to communities. The Basin Plan provides a national strategy to ensure integrated and comprehensive water resource management throughout the Murray-Darling Basin. The ACT surface and ground water resources discharge into the Murrumbidgee River. Water resource management in the ACT has ecological and hydrological impacts and changes the volume of water that is available to other water users not only in the ACT but also in NSW, Victoria and South Australia. Therefore it is important that the ACT is able to prepare the water resource plan required of it under the Basin Plan. The Bill provides the necessary legislative backing for this process.

What the Bill will do

When the legislative changes commence, the abstraction of water in the ACT will be managed by the ACT government under the ACT's Water Resources Act 2007. This will be achieved by amendments to the Australian Capital Territory (Planning and Land Management) Act 1988 and associated Commonwealth legislative instruments. This change will allow the ACT to cover all of the Territory's water resources in its water resource plan, in accordance with its obligations under the Basin Plan.

The Bill will also provide appropriate legislative backing for the Googong dam area to be included in the ACT's water resource plan area. Under the Basin Plan, the ACT is required to prepare a water resource plan that covers the Googong Dam as well as all of the Territory's water resources. This outcome will be achieved through the amendments to the WaterAct2007.

Finally, the legislation will ensure that the ACT executive has the necessary powers to fully manage the surface waters of the Googong Dam under the ACT's Water Resources Act 2007. This outcome is achieved through the amendments to the Canberra Water Supply (Googong Dam) Act 1974. The aim of this amendment is to ensure that all water resources under ACT control are managed under a consistent framework.

The combined effect of these changes is that the ACT, and Commonwealth water abstractors in the ACT, will be able to comply with their obligations under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

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.

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

I commend this bill to the Senate.

Debate adjourned.