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Tuesday, 25 November 2008
Page: 7246


Senator SIEWERT (8:19 PM) —by leave—I move Greens amendment (2) and (6) on sheet 5629:

(2)    Schedule 2, page 293 (after line 7), after item 45, insert:

45A  Paragraph 20(b)

After “quantities of”, insert “or shares of”.

(6)    Schedule 2, page 294 (after line 2), after item 50, insert:

50A  Subsection 22(1) (table item 6, column 2)

After “quantities of water”, insert “or shares of water”.

50B  Subsection 22(1) (table item 7, column 2)

After “quantities of water”, insert “or shares of water”.

This is to do with long-term sustainable diversion limits. These are two amendments that are intended to implement recommendations from Professor Young at the committee’s inquiry. They are about trying to produce a better outcome for the basin. Essentially we seek to change the word ‘quantities’ to ‘shares’ of surface water and groundwater. We believe this is more consistent with the National Water Initiative, which requires—but it is not done in many of the basin’s unregulated systems—that it is more appropriate to define sustainable diversion limits as the proportion or share of water that can be derived under different circumstances and conditions. We believe that, in the increasingly variable climate and water flow scenarios that we are facing in the basin, this is a more appropriate way to start setting the long-term sustainable diversion limit. In other words we start thinking of proportions or shares of the water.

We have sought to amend this act before. We think that this is a more appropriate way to go. As has been mentioned earlier, we sought to move a number of these amendments last time. I repeat that they are on the recommendations of professionals and experts in river management and ecosystem health, who presented to the previous inquiry in August 2007 on the Water Act 2007. They still recommend that these amendments will improve the act. So it is not a case of them having given evidence a year ago, thinking it was a good idea at the time but subsequently changing their minds. They still think this is a more appropriate way to facilitate effective management of the basin. We are talking about setting up a system that needs to deal with an increasingly variable climate, with decreasing water flows in an environment in which we are going to have to reduce consumptive water use by 42 to 53 per cent. So we need some pretty progressive ways of thinking about how we are going to manage a very limited resource.

We believe that these amendments make sense and assist us in innovative ways of thinking about the water resource and how we are going to manage it and share it into the future, because that is what we are going to be doing. We are going to have to share a limited resource for ecosystem and river health, for wetlands health, for irrigators and for human needs. Each one of those uses is extremely significant, and we believe that this is a more appropriate way to look at that water resource. We commend these amendments to the committee.