November 28, 2017  |  Second reading

Water and Catchment Legislation Amendment Bill 2017

MR HOWARD (Buninyong) (16:21:35) — I am pleased to add my comments in regard to this important piece of legislation before the house, the Water and Catchment Legislation Amendment Bill 2017. As we know, and as others who have already spoken on this bill recognised, water is one of those resources that is so important to human life. It is important to community life and central to so much that we do in our communities and across this state.

We know that good governments recognise that we need to look ahead to keep tabs on our water resources and to ensure that we can plan ahead in terms of the water use that people want to take advantage of in the years ahead. We know of course that a potable water supply is important for drinking — for human and animal consumption and in industry. We know it is important when growing our crops in irrigation areas in particular but also in other areas, and we know it is important for recreation.

If we do not keep an eye on the water resources that are available to us, we can end up in dire circumstances. I am thoroughly aware of that in my electorate of Buninyong. I remember particularly my earlier time in government when we saw over a number of years below average rainfall. While people kept thinking, ‘It will rain; we’ll get the rain sooner or later’, we had a period of 11 years of below-average rainfall until 2009. It was very important that the government had been watching these issues develop and had planned ahead.

A city like Ballarat would have been out of water by 2009 had the former Labor government not invested in the goldfields super-pipe that brought water to Bendigo and to Ballarat from central Victoria and recognised that we need to look at our water supplies over the whole of the state, to link them together as needed and to make the best use of that water. The former Labor government of course also constructed most of the Wimmera–Mallee pipeline, which had seen irrigation water previously wasted or water running from the Grampians to other areas, to ensure that farming territory in the Wimmera and Mallee had water supply. We saw that so much of that was being wasted as it was running through poor-quality irrigation canals and into the sand before it ever got to its final destination.

A whole lot has happened under good government leadership to ensure that irrigation water is better used and that we keep water within pipes rather than in open irrigation channels. We know that within an urban setting — and we have educated our community so well in recent years — it is inappropriate to wash cars with hose water. We know it is important to manage water sensibly within our homes, using a range of sensible water-saving principles.

I was pleased to visit a school in my electorate, St James Parish School in Sebastopol, late last week. The students there had undertaken a range of sustainable practices, and one of them was to ensure that across their school community they were aware of their water usage. They put signage around their taps at the school to make sure people did not waste water, and they were getting that message out there.

It is important that no government takes this for granted, and that is why this government last year produced its Water for Victoria plan, which plans ahead for the next 10, 15 and 20 years and recognises that we need to continue to do regular assessments of our water supplies around the state and that we need to talk with our communities about the appropriate usage of water.

In this bill, as well as recognising the importance of water for irrigation and the importance of ensuring that we keep our potable water supplies maintained, we need to recognise that recreation is important and that a range of recreational uses need to be recognised within our legislation, just as we recognise that our Indigenous communities have had special historical associations with water and need to be included in consultation in regard to the best ways to use our water.

The other important thing in my community has been recognising that there are a number of stressed rivers. There are stressed rivers right across the state, but none are more stressed than those in the Leigh-Moorabool catchment area. So we have needed to recognise that we have to maintain environmental flows — that is, that we cannot retain all water just for human consumption, for industrial use and for irrigation. We need to ensure environmental flows. This bill attempts to ensure that we get the balance right and that we do our regular assessments — not just for the north of the state, where we know there are certainly issues of water availability into the future, but for all of the state.

Of course I would have loved to have been able to talk for the full 10 minutes normally available to members, but I know that we have an important legislative program to continue with this week, so I want to commend the Minister for Water on the great work she has done and say that I am really pleased to be part of a government that recognises that we do need to keep looking ahead in terms of recognising the importance of our water usage. This bill is vitally important to keep moving on to see that we are planning for the next 10 or 15 years, and I commend this bill to the house.

Debate adjourned on motion of Ms HALFPENNY (Thomastown).

Debate adjourned until later this day.