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Notice given 22 June 2011

705  Senator Siewert: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities—Given that in 2002 the Commonwealth contributed $75 million to Water for Rivers to fund water savings for River Murray Increased Flows (RMIFs) and, under its Snowy Water License, Snowy Hydro Ltd (SHL) stores the accumulating RMIFs as Above Target Water over which Snowy Hydro has complete discretion and has only ever made one release of RMIFs in 2005-06, and that now the New South Wales Office of Water is proposing further changes to the Snowy Water License which will place severe restrictions on releases of RMIFs limiting them to years when SHL Above Target Water account is over 800GL and permitting release only of a volume to reduce the Above Target Water to no less than 800GL.

(1) Does the Minister support these proposed variations to the conditions of the taxpayer-funded RMIFs that will effectively eliminate any RMIF releases in drought years, the very time that the River Murray would have most need of increased volumes of environmental water.

(2) Why is the Government proceeding with the Snowy Water Licence revision process at this time when there is still no Snowy Scientific Committee to comment on the potential environmental impacts on the River Murray of the proposed changes as required under the Snowy Hydro Corporatisation Act 1997 .

(3) Why has the RMIF’s account not been put under the control of the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder to guarantee the accumulating account is released annually as required by the River Murray and according to the advice of the Snowy Scientific Committee for the river’s best environmental outcome.