Posted on 01. Jul, 2010 in Speeches

Mr LIM (Clayton) — I am delighted to be taking part in this debate as I rise to support the Water Amendment (Victorian Environmental Water Holder) Bill 2010. I think from the outset it should be put very clearly that no government has done as much for water as the Bracks and Brumby Labor governments. It is refreshing that at least we now have a consensus and support from the other side. Opposition members have been carrying on and talking about building a dam, but they do not even know where they are going to put it. That is just one small example of the opposition opposing for the sake of opposing. Opposition members have been complaining and whingeing but for seven years have done nothing. This government, however, is forging ahead and cares about the water needs of all Victorians — not just people in Melbourne or in other cities but people throughout the regions and the whole of Victoria.

Let me come to the substance of the bill. We all know that here in Victoria a lot of the wellbeing of our regional economy and community depends on river and wetland health because in turn they provide quality‑assured water, which is basic to tourist services and recreation facilities.

The Brumby government has put in a great amount of effort to improve river and wetland health with the aim of benefiting our environment and the community wellbeing in the long term. We have a vision to ensure that, going back to the Our Water Our Future policy, we put in place a whole range of programs and infrastructure to secure water for all Victorians. Furthermore, there are places of iconic or historic importance that need to be well preserved such as the Barmah and Gunbower forests, which we as a community hold dear.

Environmental water holdings are deemed crucial to the ongoing management and improvement of the health project for statewide river estuaries and wetlands. When faced with ever‑worsening water scarcity and climate change, it is particularly important to continue to improve the environmental situation so that Victoria can benefit economically, socially and recreationally.

Some effective areas of the current agreements will be kept and consolidated, including the provision that it is still the waterway manager’s responsibility to guarantee that environmental water is delivered under the whole integrated river and wetland management project. The framework of an environmental policy is drawn by the Minister for Environment and Climate Change, who is responsible to represent the community in Parliament.

The Victorian Environmental Water Holder will be established as a new statutory agency that is also independent and a decision‑maker for facilitating Victorian environmental waters. Since recovering water for burdened river systems has been at the core of the government’s investment program, the establishment of the VEWH will provide crucial improvement in building sustainable water management. Greater accountability for large environmental water assets under the government’s investment is another area that needed to be addressed, and examples include the Wimmera–Mallee pipeline and the Northern Victoria Irrigation Renewal Project. The new change will also strengthen accountability in making use of the large quantity of water generated by the abovementioned projects.

This bill will assist to maximise the Victorian government’s significant investment to deliver extra water for rivers, estuaries and wetlands. To achieve optimal results from the investment has become especially critical since the Our Water Our Future program was introduced, as I mentioned earlier, and as droughts continue and scarcity of water increases. With this bill, opportunistic rainfall and flow events can be capitalised on and greater efficiency can be achieved by improving responsiveness in environmental water management. By setting up a single integrated framework, the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder, all efforts to make use of Victorian and commonwealth environmental water will be coordinated and channelled towards achieving priorities in planning.

Implementing the government’s commitment to establish the Victorian Environmental Water Holder, this bill amends the Water Act 1989 and establishes this new environmental water holder which will consist of at least three commissions. The holder’s legislative conditions are guidelines for the daily operation of the environmental water holder. In addition, the environment minister and general government policy related to environmental water management are also responsible to provide the execution framework.

An integrated and coordinated foundation for management of the environmental waters in Victoria will be enhanced by this bill, which can provide sustainable, economical, social and environmental benefits for all Victorians. As I commend this bill to the house I also commend the minister for taking the lead on this issue.

Comments are closed.