COMMENTS on the Draft Water (Allocation and Management) Bill 2000
March 31, 2000
Comments on the Draft Water (Allocation and
Management) Bill 2000
Water is fundamental to all creatures, as this bill seeks to regulate the allocation of water including environmental flows it is essential that it looks after the needs of both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. If we get it wrong on allocations( instream, groundwater and overland) not only will aquatic ecosystems be threatened but all other biodiversity will be as well. LWRDDC recently reported that a large number of ecosystems were under threat from loss of soil moisture. All wildlife needs access to water in order to survive and they must get this from their local environment be it a pond, billabong or stream. It is important that the Bill in referring to a list of values to be protected should have the words that reflect its protecting water for all ecosystems.
While the Bill deals with allocation it also recognises the need to link to other natural resources legislation which we believe should explicitly include those dealing with water quality such as the Water EPP.
On leasehold and other crown lands we would expect that explicit recognition should be given to the rights of native title owners to be notified and have appeal rights regarding water allocations.
The section on Interim Water allocations and licences is too loose. In its current form it is equivalent to a preliminary approval under IPA and allows potential water developers to get a shoe in the door with minimal information and considerable financial leverage. This section should be amended to refer to LGA's operating existing infrastructure in areas outside WRPs.
The pricing mechanism should also allow for the protection of source water as a factor in the cost of water. The code should list source water protection measures as an acceptable solution for resource operators.
We also endorse the points raised below by the QCC and the submission of the Environmental Defenders Office Qld .
Yours for Nature
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Five features of the Bill that must be kept and strengthened
- The environmental bottom line in the purpose statement (s4(3), page 13) requires that water management must "safeguard the life-supporting capacity of ecosystems". This needs to be strengthened by ensuring that all subsequent sections are consistent with the purpose.
- Including surface water in the definition of water (page 126), and vesting the right to the "use flow and control of all water in Queensland" in the State (s.8, page 15) gives the Government the power to regulate the use of overland flow waters outside of watercourses. However, the proposed policy for using this is inadequate, and needs to be strengthened power (see Appendix 2 of the explanatory notes).
- The third party enforcement provisions, (Enforcement by Civil Remedy page 94) allow "the Chief Executive and any other person" to apply to the Magistrates Court to have the Act enforced. To strengthen this aspect of the Bill, the provisions for awarding costs s72A(10), or ordering the payment of compensation s72A(8), should be removed. They are unnecessary since the court already has the ability to dismiss frivolous or vexatious allegations. The Bill needs to make it clear that any person means irrespective of whether that person has any special rights or financial interest in the issue. The Bill needs to make clear that any breach of the Bill is a contravention to which third party enforcement rights apply.
- The Bill creates a systematic framework for water allocation that includes providing water for the environmental. This is an improvement on past practice, and previous laws. The Bill needs to be strengthened by specifically requiring that environmental flow rules must be set in accordance with the purpose of the Act, and that the rules must not allow new allocations over sustainable limits (as specified by the TAP panel).
- The Bill provides valuable new rights to inspect and purchase key documents without resort to the Freedom of Information Act. Those rights need to be expanded to include:
- TAP and CAP reccomendations
- The information gathered by the Chief Executive for planning purposes
- Monitoring data
- Water permits
- Documents supporting applications for licences or licence amendments
- The legal process for developing a Water Resource Plan (Part 3 page 20) does not include some of the best elements of the way the WAMP process has run to date. It should be mandatory for the Government to convene a community reference panel, and gain independent scientific advice, during the development of a Water Resource Plan. Prior to putting out a draft Plan, it should be mandatory for DNR to publish a report stating the current ecological condition of the river system, trends in water use and environmental impact, and setting out in broad terms how the Government intends to address
- The list specifying what Water Resource Plans must contain, needs to be expanded (see page 24). In addition to the items already listed, all WRPs should:
- specify what tangible ecological outcomes the plan aims to achieve, and outline a program to monitor those outcomes;
- specify triggers for mandatory early review of the plan (eg. if the plan is not producing the intended results);
- make recommendations about integrating overland, surface and undergound water management;
- identify parts of the plan area which remain over-allocated (stressed rivers), and set a timeframe for development of a strategy to reduce water use to sustainable levels;
- identify crown reserves of water;
In addition, WRPs that provide for the issue of tradeable water entitlements must;
- set Basin wide standards for regulating water trading;
- indicate where ROPs will be prepared, and a timeframe for their preparation.
- The Bill should include state-wide principles and standards for regulating water trading (see 46).
- the cumulative impacts of numerous water trades must be considered,
- trades should not be allowed to adversely affect environmental flows,
- there should be no trading between catchments,
- the social impact of trades should be considered, and
- in over-allocated catchments, a proportion of all trades should be returned to the environment.
- Land and Water Management Plans should be a mandatory condition of all agricultural water use (see page 29). The Government originally intended to require irrigators to prepare a Land and Water Management Plan, in order to get a permit for water use. But the draft Bill only requires that LWMPs be done under particular circumstances, in defined areas.
5. The roles of water resource management, standard setting and regulatory enforcement, and service provision must be clearly separated. At the moment, the draft Bill creates numerous potential conflicts of interest for the Minister and the Chief Executive, since they are ultimately responsible for all three functions.
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