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Monday, 15 March 1971

Senator COTTON (New South WalesMinister for Civil Aviation) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

This Bill is concerned with a grant which was announced on 1 5th June 1970 to be made under the new national water resources development programme. The Government has agreed to a request from the State of New South Wales for a grant under ihe programme of up to S9m for assistance with flood mitigation works on 1 1 New South Wales coastal rivers. The new national water resources development programme was announced by the former Prime Minister in October 1969. Under the programme, the Commonwealth proposes to allocate to the States SI 00m over 5 years for rural water conservation and supply works and flood mitigation and water measurement over and above the States' own programmes for these purposes. The new programme follows the original national water programme which provided over S50m in grants to the States.

Under a previous measure of assistance, which terminated at 30th June 1969, the Commonwealth Government provided assistance to the State of New South Wales of S8m towards the cost of flood mitigation works on 6 coastal rivers - Tweed, Richmond. Clarence, Macleay. Hunter and Shoalhaven - to be spent in conjunction with contributions by the' State Government and local government authorities. The new programme involves additional works on the rivers included in the original programme but it has been expanded to include 5 further " rivers - Bellinger, Hastings, Manning, Hawkesbury and Moruya* - thus enabling1 ; completion of comprehensive flood mitigation works on the upper and lower reaches of all the major coastal rivers in the State. The financial assistance does not include maintenance of existing works, but is directed to the carrying out of new works, and will enable the local government authorities concerned to accelerate the completion of those works. The proposed works will provide a high degree of protection for areas subject to periodic minor- and nuisance flooding., and will make an important contribution towards strengthening the rural economy of coastal areas of the State. Drainage works will enable flood damaged fields to return. to production in the quickest possible time after major floods. In addition, flood damage to urban areas and to public installations such as roads, bridges and railways will be reduced. More detailed information on the schemes is contained in the explanatory memorandum distributed with the Bill.

I turn now to the Bill itself, which has been designed to follow the general pattern of legislation for projects assisted under the national water programme, but also taking in features of the earlier legislation providing financial assistance to New South Wales for flood mitigation works. The local government authorities participating in the scheme and the rivers on which it is proposed that the works be carried out are listed in clause 3 (i). which also defines other matters relevant to the operation of the Act. Commonwealth financial assistance towards the cost of the flood mitigation works is provided under clause 3 (i) of the Bill for a period of 7 years commencing on 1st July 1969. A fundamental feature of the arrangements is that the level of assistance to be provided to the local government authorities, which, of course, are representative of the landowners and Other people most intimately affected by floodings, will depend on the amounts provided by the authorities themselves from their own resources towards the cost of flood mitigation works. The State is to subsidise local authority expenditure at the rate of $3 for $1 in the case of the Hunter River and $2 for $1 in other cases. The Commonwealth assistance will match the State contribution.

Honourable senators will observe that the Bill does not contain provision for Commonwealth approval of the individual works to which the Commonwealth assistance is to be applied. The programme involves a large number of individual items including levee banks, river channel improvement and drainage works on 1 1 river systems. The proposals put forward by the State are subject to some amendment in the light of final investigation and design. We regard the final selection of such individual works as a matter for the State and the local authorities concerned.

The Bill does, however, contain provision for the Commonwealth to be kept suitably informed about the works and to be furnished with information relating to expenditure and progress on the works. I have much pleasure in commending the Bill to the Senate.

Debate (on motion by Senator Fitzgerald) adjourned.

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