HANSARD OF THE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL
Wednesday 18 April 2007
DAM WORKS LEGISLATION (MISCELLANEOUS
AMENDMENTS) BILL 2007 (No. 6)
Mr FINCH - Tasmania, even with our abundant rainfall in some regions, is far from immune from the water concerns of the mainland. I remember when I was working at Savage River many years ago we used to measure our rainfall in feet - 9 feet of rain we used to have a year.
Ms Forrest - We still do.
Mr FINCH - Would you have 9 feet there now?
Ms Forrest - It has a lot.
Mr Wilkinson - That's how Savage River got its name - you were there.
Members laughing .
Mr FINCH - There was a bit of pollution over there then too, every time I went for a walk.
Members laughing .
Mr FINCH - However, we have been a little slow to deal with our water concerns and this bill, of course, is a step in the right direction although a lot more remains to be done if we are to prepare for the predicted changes to rainfall patterns. This bill is about drought-proofing.
The present approval process for dam construction, particularly for farmers, is, as we have heard and we know, cumbersome and costly and often –
Sitting suspended from 4. p.m. to 4.30 p.m.
Mr FINCH - Mr President, anybody would think that I was singing Clair de Lune or 'Clear the Room'. I will continue in spite of the reduced numbers. We had interesting discussion over the break in respect of my comment about this bill being about drought-proofing. It seems that there was some interest in that statement. I think that it is part of drought-proofing, not entirely about drought-proofing but it is about better management of our water, what falls out of the sky and capturing that and putting it to its various uses. I will change that and say this bill is partly about drought-proofing.
I mentioned too the present approval process for dam construction, particularly for farmers, being cumbersome and costly. I think that I was on safe ground there, was I not? In speaking of it being costly, I mean that also in respect of time. Often dam applicants are required to obtain separate permits from the Threatened Species Protection Act 1995; then there is a separate assessment of forest and non-forest vegetation issues at dam sites and a separate authorisation under the Inland Fisheries Act 1995. All these permits and assessments are costly and time-consuming, although there is rightly a strong environmental argument for those proper assessments to take place. In respect of that we must rely on the relevant section from the second reading speech relating to the bill, and I quote:
'Relevant issues formerly covered by the separate authorisations will be covered by the dam works permit. The Assessment Committee for Dam Construction will seek and consider expert information on these issues along with relevant socioeconomic, engineering and other environmental issues as part of the one-stop-shop approval process.
If this is to be taken at face value, it allays most of the environmental concerns regarding the inclusion of threatened species and vegetation in the assessment process. If those environmental assessments can be carried out under the dam works permit, it is going to cut costs and it is going to cut red tape. This will result in more dams on farms capturing the winter stream flows for use in the summer. That can only be a good thing. I really have no quibble with this bill and I support more dams on farms.
Big dam projects may be another matter but there is no reason they too cannot be properly assessed by the Assessment Committee for Dam Construction. It is high time we had an efficient way of declaring a water supply emergency. I welcome that change too. I know that my colleagues who have vast rural and agricultural experience and holdings have taken a strong interest in this bill and I know that they will be giving a lot of scrutiny to this bill and to its amendments. I am looking forward to their major contributions. I look forward also to the opportunity to assess further government legislative initiatives to deal with the future water problems that we are bound to have. I support the bill.