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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_30519" align="aligncenter" width="570"] The project drew together government agencies and various community groups.[/caption]

A partnership between state and local governments, water utilities, land management and community groups has enabled the most efficient delivery of a large urban waterway project, officials say.

Less than a decade ago, Bannister Creek in Perth was a “no-go” area for locals because of significant antisocial behaviour in and around the area. Many houses along the creek screened and fenced it off from view.

But today the site is a favourite walk for seniors living in the local aged care facility and among residents walking or excising in the area’s open public space.

Houses have been installing see-through screens and back-garden patios to take in the view.

Bannister Creek is among the areas that have been rejuvenated in Perth’s Urban Waterways Renewal project - an $8.5 million initiative involving all three levers of government and numerous state agencies and community groups.

The project, which successfully engaged 1,600 community volunteers,  retrofitted 11 sections of the urban draining systems within the Canning River catchments in the Perth metropolitan area.

Since it began in 2007 the project has restored 3.3 kilometres of traditional urban drainage into living streams, installed more than 424,000 plants, and removed 18 hectares of weeds and 4,600 cubic metres of sediment and rubbish.   

But in addition to the water and environmental benefits the project has delivered social, recreational and cultural benefits, including improved public amenity.

In a paper presented at a recent international conference on water sensitive urban design, three officials involved in the initiative say it has provided a “blueprint” for future project delivery.

“The project has inspired new ways of doing things and is a model that other organisations and governments can follow,” according to Agni Bhandari from the state’s Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, Brett Kuhlmann from South Eastern Regional Centre for Urban Landcare and Scott Davie from the Water Corporation.

“A long-term benefit is in the way people are viewing and caring for these sites and seeing what is possible for urban waterways and draining,” they say.

Various stakeholders involved

The project was initiated after the Swan Canning River system was identified as a “hot spot” in 2006 because of its high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous. A funding injection of $4 million from the Commonwealth was matched by the state and three local governments (the cities of Gosnells, Armadale and Canning). In addition to local government, the project involved SERCUL, the water and biodiversity departments and the Water Corporation. “The project drew together local landcare groups, state and local government agencies and, importantly, a volunteer army. More than 1,600 volunteers took part in the project during its lifespan, contributing 6,900 hours of work worth around $200,000,” the officials say. The project had four main aims: healthy water, healthy habitats, educated communities and recreation and wellbeing.

Navigating different agendas

The officials note that as water resources and environmental assets cross departmental boundaries there were many stakeholders involved, each with different interests and often conflicting directives, which could delay progress.
“The project team gathered each of the stakeholders together to collectively identify the opportunities, constraints and to overcome the barriers. The project adopted a multidisciplinary approach to involve internal and external stakeholders to enable a common vision.”
The team also organised five workshops and 17 site tours and successfully engaged eight community groups and 10 schools in the project.

Environmental, social benefits    

The project incorporated a monitoring and evaluation program, which shows the measures taken have contributed to improved water quality, reduced nutrient load, prevention of fish kills and reduced flood risk. It also contributed to reduced heat island effects and improved urban amenity. The officials cite a study that found the project also contributed to a boost in house values in the neighbourhoods around the retrofitted systems. At Bannister Creek, the median home within 200 meters of the restoration site increased in value by $17,000 to $26,000. The project also increased stakeholders’ understanding and knowledge of local hydrology and water technologies, they say.  

‘Leading example’ of project delivery

The officials conclude that the project is a “leading example” of involving partnerships between government agencies, landcare, community groups, schools and volunteers “to achieve outstanding on-ground water management and environmental outcomes.” Given that irregular and insufficient funding is often a key issue in the planning and management of major projects, the officials recommend that relevant agencies and community stakeholders “provide shared ongoing commitments and contribution”. “Ongoing contribution of even a small amount of in-kind support or resources from various agencies and stakeholders can become a significant contribution to expand such projects,” they say.
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[post_title] => New 'blueprint' for major project delivery [post_excerpt] => A partnership between state and local governments, water utilities, land management and community groups has enabled the most efficient delivery of a large urban waterway project, officials say. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => new-blueprint-for-major-project-delivery [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-06-01 10:10:25 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-06-01 00:10:25 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=30515 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 30278 [post_author] => 674 [post_date] => 2018-05-15 08:55:01 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-05-14 22:55:01 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_30281" align="aligncenter" width="621"] Community planting events are among Subiaco's water sustainability measures.[/caption] Extensive community education programs and the use of smart technologies are among the tools being used by “water wise” councils in Western Australia. In leafy Subiaco, an inner western suburb of Perth, residents have reduced their drinking water use by a quarter since 2015 on foot of community education programs being delivered by the city. These have included community planting events, water wise gardening workshops, demonstration gardens and assistance programs for verge gardens. It’s part of the City of Subiaco’s broader water sustainability program, which was recently recognised as a leader in Western Australia Government’s annual Waterwise Council Program. Subiaco's initiatives have included the trial of ultrasonic solar powered algae control technology in the Subiaco Common Irrigation Lake, which improves water quality by using sound waves to monitor and regulate algae. Another recent initiative was a study of the city’s drainage system using hydraulic modelling of draining patterns, which will inform future flood prevention and water wuality improvement projects. “We’ve made a commitment to create a water-sensitive community,” says Mayor Penny Taylor. “I congratulate city staff for their hard work in carrying out programs and operations that support residents, local businesses and developers to act and work sustainably in Subiaco.”

Improved leak detection

Similarly, technology is a strong feature of the water management measures being rolled out by the City of Kwinana, another council that has been recognised in the Waterwise scheme, a joint initiative of the state's water corporation and department of water.  Sarah McCabe, City of Kwinana sustainability officer, said that water data loggers and real-time monitoring systems have been installed at 10 council buildings, which have been used to detect leaks. The council estimates this has saved nine million litres of water while upgrades to toilets and urinals have saved an estimated 900,000 litres each year. Centralised irrigation technology has also led to improvements in how the city waters its parks and gardens. “That’s helped with more responsible irrigation that can respond to water conditions, and the use of the park, which really helps bring down the water consumption,” Ms McCabe told Government News. Like Subiaco, the City of Kwinana has been rolling out public awareness initiatives, such as its “adopt-a-verge” program which encourages residents to plant local native plants on their verge. A subsidised local native seedling sale, free mulch and verge gardening tips and workshops are all features of the program. Ms McCabe says the council is in the middle of reviewing its five-year sustainable water management plan, but she expects future initiatives will focus on major water consuming facilities and likely continue to include the use of technology.
Related GN coverage: Size no obstacle to innovation for water bodies, says report
[post_title] => Local governments tackle water waste [post_excerpt] => Extensive community education programs and the use of smart technologies are among the tools being used by “water wise” councils in Western Australia. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => local-governments-tackle-water-waste [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-05-15 11:25:25 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-05-15 01:25:25 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=30278 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 29965 [post_author] => 674 [post_date] => 2018-04-20 10:54:42 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-04-20 00:54:42 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_30020" align="aligncenter" width="584"] Melbourne Water has opened its land up for community use.[/caption] State and local government water utilities are turning to new technology and partnerships with private and community groups to meet supply challenges arising from population growth and climate change. That’s according to an analysis of Australian water utilities by the Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities, which concludes that agencies are “taking proactive steps” to meet future challenges. The paper, based on the CRC's research, detailed a range of collaborations and innovations across both state-owned and local government water utilities. It found that agencies are changing internal operations and culture, adopting new business models and engaging with external groups. The CRC, which is based at Monash University, said there is now a “significant body of evidence” showing that state-owned enterprises, which have responsibility for water and sewerage services in most Australian cities, are “transforming from within”. “Technological, financial and cultural commitment to innovation are common elements in these transformations,” the report stated. These entities are using automation and digital technology to improve their traditional water utilities services, it said. The paper pointed to the WA Water Corporation's use of smart water meters and big data diagnostics to better manage water utilisation in Kalgoorlie. This facilitated a behaviour change campaign that influenced customer demand, particularly during warmer months. Similarly, the researchers cited South East Water’s use of pressure sewers to overcome wastewater pollution from septic systems on the Mornington Peninsula: 
“South East Water is rolling out one of the largest pressure sewer constructions in Australia, covering 16,500 properties... It reduces wastewater pollution released into the environment, and allows South East Water to better use its existing mains sewer network."

Partnerships with business, community

Some state-owned water utilities are successfully partnering with the private sector to develop new business models, while others are initiating various public-private and community partnerships. For instance, the researchers noted that communities in Melbourne can apply to use Melbourne Water land for community-building activities, through the organisation's Our Space Your Place initiative.  “The community benefits from improved access to open spaces, while Melbourne Water improves it assets and its capacity to engage and service the community,” they concluded.

Local government entities also innovating

But it’s not just large state-owned water utilities displaying innovative practices, with many local government water entities similarly transforming how they work, the researchers found. NSW has 100 municipal government owned water providers in rural and regional areas, while all service providers in Queensland are owned by municipal governments, the paper noted. “The Australian experience shows geographic locations, size and ownership are not barriers to applying water sensitive principles that deliver a better result for communities,” the analysis found.
“Small municipal water utilities are taking advantage of innovative ways to better use their existing infrastructure to deliver services.”
It pointed to Mackay Regional Council, which introduced digital communications technology to track consumption and then manage demand for water, particularly during peaks. Likewise, in the face of increased water demand from industry and community, the City of Salisbury has responded by managing harvested stormwater and wastewater. “This water services parks, schools, industry and residential properties,” the report said.

Traditional approaches won’t cut it

The analysis concludes that traditional water management approaches will not meet the challenges facing water utilities, which include rapid population growth, climate change and demand for affordable services. The authors argued that water utilities must keep transforming themselves internally, through culture change, integrating existing services and identifying new products and services. They must also keep engaging with external bodies, such as other water utilities, private sector providers and community groups. Finally, the researchers argued that water utilities must influence policy, regulation and funding by demonstrating how new service delivery methods benefit both providers and the community. [caption id="attachment_29970" align="aligncenter" width="616"] The challenges facing water utilities, according to the CRC.[/caption]
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[post_title] => Size no obstacle to innovation for water bodies: report [post_excerpt] => State and local government water utilities are turning to new technology and partnerships with private and community groups to meet supply challenges arising from population growth and climate change. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => size-no-obstacle-to-innovation-for-water-bodies-report [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-04-20 11:59:30 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-04-20 01:59:30 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=29965 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 29946 [post_author] => 675 [post_date] => 2018-04-17 09:54:06 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-04-16 23:54:06 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_29948" align="aligncenter" width="602"] In the Lockyer Valley, councils are collaborating on water security projects.[/caption] Faced with a dwindling water supply, Queensland’s agricultural powerhouse, the Lockyer Valley, is bouncing back through a unique council-led partnership. With the region responsible for 19 per cent of Queensland’s annual agricultural production, securing Lockyer Valley’s water supply after a devastating drought was an urgent priority for Lockyer Valley Regional Council.  That’s why the western Queensland council has joined with Somerset Regional Council and a number of local stakeholder organisations to tackle rising costs and decreasing water supplies in an unprecedented, multi-million dollar collaboration. Lockyer Valley Mayor Tanya Milligan said the approach is a first for the region. “We’re talking about water for farmers but also water for livelihoods, for business, for tourism. It’s right across the board as far as benefits for the environment, the economy as well as social benefits," she told Government News. Among the outcomes of the collaboration between Lockyer and Somerset councils is a proposal for a new pipeline to direct waste water from Wivenhoe Dam and provide hundreds of drought-ridden irrigators in the Lockyer Valley with irrigation water. The partnership has also seen the Lockyer council appoint a chair to lead a new study on the potential of bulk irrigation, a potential regional solution to water security that could be shared across councils. Lockyer and Somerset are among 25 regional councils across Queensland that are investigating water security strategies through partnerships that are being led by the Queensland Water Regional Alliance Program (QWRAP).

‘Taking the initiative’ in water security

Arron Hieatt, Local Government Association of Queensland’s principal advisor for water and sewerage infrastructure, said that the partnerships were a significant example of councils taking the initiative to pioneer new approaches to water security.   “The idea is to provide an incentive for councils to work together on water and sewerage issues. We get funding from the Queensland Government, which provides councils with a subsidy for collaborative projects looking at water and sewerage issues regionally,” he said. Mr Hieatt said councils are in the best position to help coordinate a response to water issues. “Through collaboration, councils can bypass the red tape often associated with state-run water planning and oversee projects that improve water security, whilst increasing economic returns for the state and generating local jobs. “A lot of councils are reaching that point where the resources are starting to limit what they can do. It takes a regional collaboration to make sure the water is managed as well as it can be.”

Economies of scale

Water security has an immense socio-economic impact on regional councils, with irrigation directly impacting the level of agricultural production, which is often a primary driver of economic success in areas like the Lockyer Valley. According to Mr Hieatt, collaboration allows councils to share the economic returns of regional water security projects, whilst also reducing state government expenditure. “The regional approach has been interesting because it’s saving money. By working together councils are able to get economies of scale, especially the smaller councils.” Collaborations between councils also have the added benefit of creating jobs in regional areas, and ensuring there’s a more even spread of employment opportunities between collaborating local governments. “We’re seeing employment in some of our smaller councils that wouldn’t have happened without this type of encouragement and incentive.”

Implementation challenges

Nonetheless, there are a number of challenges to implementing council collaborations on water, including a shortage of funding. While there is a regional coordinator within each QWRAP group, Mr Hieatt said more funding is needed to better reflect the demands of this fundamental role. “We have very little funding at the moment. We want these collaborations to continue and we want the state to be a partner in that funding.” Part of the rationale is that the State Government receives greater returns from investing in the partnerships, said Mr Hieatt. “We’ve already saved state government as much as they’ve invested into this program. Not only that, when they invest into it, councils match the funding with their own money.” As water security becomes more of a concern across states, it’s anticipated more partnerships will continue to form to address the challenges facing regional councils.
Do you know of an innovative collaboration in government? Get in touch with us: editorial@governmentnews.com.au
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[post_title] => Drought-ridden councils spearhead water collaboration [post_excerpt] => Faced with a dwindling water supply, Queensland’s agricultural powerhouse, the Lockyer Valley, is bouncing back through a unique council-led partnership. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => drought-ridden-councils-spearhead-water-collaboration [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-04-17 09:57:32 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-04-16 23:57:32 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=29946 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 29670 [post_author] => 674 [post_date] => 2018-04-03 10:06:11 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-04-03 00:06:11 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_29673" align="aligncenter" width="566"] Sydney Park Wetlands connects with community through weirs and paths.[/caption] The designers of Sydney Park’s wetlands, created on 40 hectares of former landfill, have again been recognised for their innovative approach. The success of City of Sydney’s landmark water re-use project in Sydney Park lies in its fusion of science and ecology with art, coupled with the council’s ability to curate the multidisciplinary team that designed it. That’s according to Mike Horne, director of Turf Design Studio, one of the landscape architects behind the project, which has won further acclaim after picking up a prestigious European prize this month. In partnership with City of Sydney, Turf Design Studio and Environmental Partnership led a multidisciplinary team of water engineering, public art, ecology, lighting and other specialists on the $11 million Sydney Park Water Re-Use Project. The project was awarded both the Civic Trust Award and The Special Award for Sustainability at Europe’s Civic Trust Awards. It’s been recognised for delivering unique parkland that integrates landfill remediation, recreation, enhanced biodiversity, civil infrastructure, and new urban water re-use systems. [caption id="attachment_29674" align="aligncenter" width="588"] The Sydney Park Water Re-Use Project[/caption] The project is City of Sydney’s largest stormwater re-use facility, harvesting 850 million litres of stormwater annually. It’s designed to reduce City of Sydney’s potable water demand by 10 per cent before 2030. The initiative has revitalised 40 hectares of former landfill site into wetlands, playgrounds, wildlife habitat, and recreational areas. Mr Horne said the project’s success lay in its unique, multidisciplinary fusion. “Turpin + Crawford Studio, Alluvium and Dragonfly Environmental brought verve and skill to the project. The City of Sydney also deserves recognition for its curatorial rigour and commitment to quality on behalf of the community,” he told Government News.

Project’s unique obstacles

[caption id="attachment_29717" align="alignright" width="169"] Mike Horne[/caption] Discussing the challenges involved in what was City of Sydney’s largest environmental project to date, Mr Horne said that as a former brickworks and then landfill site, the park’s existing ponds held promise but suffered from low rainfall and algae outbreaks. “Given the site’s magnitude, the team focused on water harvesting and re-use to ensure waterway health and to future-proof water supply for the site.” The project has enhanced circulation of water through the ponds and wetlands, diverting 840 mega litres per annum of local stormwater for treatment and re-use, renewing ecosystems and creating greener and more functional public amenity, he said. “The city also seized the opportunity to use what was essentially an infrastructure project as a vehicle to breathe new life into the park - as a vibrant recreation and environmental asset for Sydney,” said Mr Horne.   The Sydney Park Water Re-use Project competed with a field of UK and international entrants in the Civic Trust Awards, which celebrate exceptional architecture, urban design and public art projects globally. [caption id="attachment_29672" align="aligncenter" width="539"] The project has transformed the park, says Clover Moore.[/caption] The project has previously won the Australia Prize in Urban Design Award for Major Built Infrastructure and the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects’ national infrastructure and NSW excellence awards. Clover Moore, Lord Mayor of Sydney, said the design team had “transformed the park, literally bringing the wetlands and the story of water treatment to life in the park’s ecosystems and in the community’s imagination.” Through the chain of wetlands, connected by weirs, bridges, paths and stepping stones, the designers have created delightful places in the park’s landscape, connecting community and nature, she said.
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[post_title] => International acclaim for Sydney water re-use project [post_excerpt] => The designers of Sydney Park’s wetlands, created on 40 hectares of former landfill, have again been recognised for their innovative approach. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => international-acclaim-for-sydney-water-re-use-project [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-04-03 10:07:26 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-04-03 00:07:26 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=29670 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 29575 [post_author] => 655 [post_date] => 2018-03-19 15:08:21 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-03-19 04:08:21 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_29577" align="aligncenter" width="566"] Council CEO Morven Cameron, Hunter Water MD Jim Bentley and Lake Macquarie Mayor Kay Fraser.[/caption] A shared online mapping tool and the provision of real-time data for both planners and field crews are among the first solutions a local council and water authority aim to develop together. Hunter Water and Lake Macquarie City Council said their signing of a partnership agreement marked the first step of a new integrated approach to doing business between the two organisations. Lake Macquarie City Council’s CEO Morven Cameron said that while both organisations always had a great relationship at a staff level the agreement makes official their commitment to strengthen the partnership, share learnings and collaborate to improve the delivery of services. [caption id="attachment_29580" align="alignright" width="131"] Morven Cameron[/caption] Among the partnership’s initial priorities were the development digital solutions to improve coordination of infrastructure maintenance, leading to better communication between the two organisations and cost savings, she said. “Looking long-term, it is exciting to be able to share ideas on improving the services we offer to our local communities, such as water resilience, climate change adaptation and water reuse projects,” Ms Cameron told Government News. The two organisations say they’ll collaborate by sharing resources and information to ensure key infrastructure projects and services are delivered more efficiently. Hunter Water managing director Jim Bentley said the partnership was a great opportunity to strengthen industry relationships. “As an organisation we recognise we have more to gain by working together with other major service providers in our community. We’re proud to partner with Council on this new way of doing business and we’re committed to showing how collaboration and learning together can drive success.
“By working together, we expect this will lead to more streamlined services for the benefit of the community."
Ms Cameron said the initiative highlighted just important it is for local government to collaborate with key industry partners for the benefit of the community and the region. “Signing the agreement between Hunter Water and Council marks a turning point in ensuring that we not only have improved coordination when maintaining or upgrading infrastructure but also when delivering service improvements and efficiencies to the Lake Macquarie community. “Both organisations are committed to working with the community to solve complex problems, and it is exciting to be able to share ideas and learn together about how collaboration can improve the services we offer to our local communities,” said Ms Cameron.
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[post_title] => Case study: organisations seek efficiencies through ‘integrated approach’ [post_excerpt] => A shared online mapping tool and the provision of real-time data for both planners and field crews are among the first solutions a local council and water authority aim to develop together. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => case-study-organisations-seek-efficiencies-through-integrated-approach [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-03-23 10:46:55 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-03-22 23:46:55 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=29575 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 29275 [post_author] => 673 [post_date] => 2018-03-02 09:24:11 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-03-01 22:24:11 [post_content] =>

After nearly a year of negotiations, the Commonwealth Government has reached an agreement with the New South Wales and Victorian Governments to take full ownership of Snowy Hydro, as the first step to its proposed Snowy 2.0 project. Under the deal, flagged in the 2017 Federal Budget, NSW will get $4.154 billion and Victoria $2.077 billion, reflecting their respective Snowy shareholdings. There is a ‘broad commitment’ that the money will be spent on ‘productive infrastructure projects’. The agreement paves the way for the Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro project to proceed to a final investment decision by the independent Snowy Hydro board. “The purchase will see this iconic infrastructure remain in Australian Government hands and NSW and Victoria will receive a fair market value for an important energy asset,” said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. “The deal will be contingent on the Victorian Parliament confirming the sale and the Commonwealth Parliament passing an appropriation bill.” Key terms reached as part of the purchase are:
  • The Australian Government will increase its shareholding from 13 percent to 100 per cent by purchasing NSW’s 58 percent and Victoria’s 29 per cent shareholdings.
  • NSW and Victoria will invest proceeds of the sale into productive infrastructure.
  • NSW will provide all reasonable assistance to Snowy Hydro in relation to its current and future operations (including planning and approvals process for Snowy 2.0).
  • The Australian Government will provide an assurance that Snowy Hydro will continue to be in public ownership, and employment levels and existing head office locations will not change.
  • There will be no change to current arrangements on water issues.
  • The transaction will not affect allocations of GST for NSW or Victoria.
Snowy Hydro owns and operates 5,500 MW of generation capacity, including the Snowy Mountains Scheme. Snowy 2.0 is a proposed expansion of the Snowy Mountains Scheme and will provide an additional generation capacity of 2000 MW to power about 500,000 homes at peak demand. Snowy Hydro released a Feasibility Study for Snowy 2.0 in December 2017, which declared the project to be ‘both technically and financially feasible’. The Government has promoted the project as proof of its renewable energy credentials, but critics have branded it as window dressing, because it is not accompanied by any commitment to increasing renewable energy targets.   [post_title] => $6 billion Snowy purchase agreed [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 6-billion-snowy-purchase-agreed [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-03-02 09:29:17 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-03-01 22:29:17 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=29275 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 29161 [post_author] => 673 [post_date] => 2018-02-15 15:46:25 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-02-15 04:46:25 [post_content] =>

The current standoff over water allocations in the Murray Darlin Basin is as good an example as you could ever find of how Australia’s federal system is broken. The Murray Darling Basin Plan was supposed to be the epitome of how Australia’s states and territories could work with each other and the Federal Government for the good of all Australians. Instead it has descended into the infantile bickering and name-calling that seems to be the norm in public debate in Australia in the 21st century. Instead of evidence-based analysis and rational argument, we have partisan posturing and cherry picked facts. There is a real danger that the whole Murray Darling Basin rescue strategy will come crashing down, and that Australia’s agricultural heartland will be ruined. The issue is pretty simple, though many try to complicate it. At the bottom of the problem is the inescapable fact that there is a finite amount of water to go around, and that it must be allocated in such a way to satisfy as many stakeholders as possible, who unfortunately have competing and incompatible aims. Everybody wants as much water as they can get, but it is a zero sum game. Even with increase efficiencies (which is happening) and total transparency of usage (which is most definitely not happening), there would be problems. As it is, greed and stupidity and short-sightedness are winning out. Efforts to redress the balance and come up with a water allocation system that will disappoint the smallest number of people are failing. So, what are the facts? Fact: There is a finite amount of water. Efficiencies in its use are increasing, but rainfall will always be variable and climate change will probably make things more difficult. Fact: The river system needs a certain amount of water flowing through it to the sea top remain viable. There comes a point at which insufficient water causes silting, salination, the loss of animal’s habitats, and in extreme cases the drying up of the river altogether. Fact: Upstream users are taking more than they should. The big cotton growers in Queensland are simply selfish and greedy and don’t care about people downstream. They call any attempt to reduce even their legal allocation ‘extreme environmentalism’. Fact: The NSW Government has actively colluded in the theft of unmetered water by rogue farmers. A seniotr bureaucrat lost his job, but a continuing inquiry is turning into an exercise in obfuscation. Fact: The former Federal Water Minister and current Deputy Prime Minister, lately in the news for other reasons, told NSW farmers not to worry about the agreement, and that he would make sure they got aa much water as they wanted. This week in Federal Parliament the ALP voted for a Greens amendment to prevent the Federal Government reducing the amount of water being left in the river. By any measure it is the minimum need to keep the river healthy. The Government and the upriver farmers are crying foul – even though it is they who are trying to change the rules. Meanwhile the NSW Government has announced it will build a pipeline from the river to Broken Hill, bypassing that city’s natural water supply of the Menindee Lakes. It refuses to offer any business case, or to even meet with the city’s mayor and civic fathers to discuss the project. It is a god-awful mess. If ever anything in Australia was worthy of a Royal Commission, this is it. A couple of years ago I was involved in writing a book about Australia’s agricultural potential. I interviewed the head of the Murray Darlin Basin Authority and I did some research on the area’s importance to the country. This is what I wrote: “The Murray-Darling Basin is one of the largest river basins in the world. It covers just over a million square kilometres, or 14 per cent of Australia’s land area. That is around the same area as Spain and France combined. It is home to more than two million people. “Total river length is 77,000 km, including Australia’s three longest rivers. It includes virtually all of inland NSW and the entire northern half of Victoria. It takes in the Darling Downs and the Warrego in Queensland, and South Australia’s Riverland. At its eastern end is Canberra – Lake Burley Griffin is formed by the dammed Molonglo River, which flows into the Murrumbidgee, the Murray’s greatest tributary. “The Basin produces one third of Australia’s food supply. It contains 40 percent of Australia’s farms and 70 percent of its irrigated farmland. It produces almost all of Australia’s rice and cotton and two thirds of its grapes. More than half Australia’s fruit is grown in the Basin, and it is home to most of the country’s sheep.” And now it is all at risk. But don’t worry. The Government will fix it all.   [post_title] => Opinion – Murray Darling debacle shows the failure of federalism [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => opinion-murray-darling-debacle-shows-failure-federalism [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-02-16 08:06:13 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-15 21:06:13 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=29161 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 28961 [post_author] => 673 [post_date] => 2018-01-23 09:27:03 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-01-22 22:27:03 [post_content] =>

It didn’t take long. On Monday the Federal Government made a big deal out of investing $60 million over 18 months to “set in motion” a major research and development program for the restoration of the Great Barrier Reef. Within 24 hours the plan was attacked by environmentalists, marine scientists and the Greens as too little, too late, as window dressing, and for failing to even mention the main cause of the reef’s problems – climate change. First – what was announced?
  • $10.4 million for an “all-out assault” on coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish. This will allow the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to increase the number of vessels targeting starfish from three to eight.
  • $36.6 million to further reduce pollution from water entering the Reef. “This builds on our success with farmers reducing soil erosion, improving on-farm nutrient management and restoring coastal and riparian vegetation in the Reef catchments.”
  • $4.9 million to put more field officers on the water, improving compliance, and providing early warning of further bleaching and delivering more reef and island management interventions.
“For the first time The Commonwealth will bring together key agencies to explore ways the Reef can best adapt to the changing environment to protect it for decades to come,” said the announcement. “As a critical national asset, the Reef protects Queensland’s coastal infrastructure, supports 64,000 jobs and provides $6.4 billion a year to the economy.” It also mentioned the Reef 2050 Plan, a $2 billion commitment announced in 2015 by the Federal and Queensland Governments as an “overarching framework” for protecting and managing the Reef until 2050, It was also tied in with one of the Government’s other hot button, science and innovation. “The specific science focus of the R&D funding is part of the Government’s broader focus on science, innovation and jobs and the central role they will play now and into the future. Innovation and science are key to future employment opportunities for Australians.” All worthy objectives – but not enough for the critics. The program to attack the crown-of-thorns starfish will spend more money on a program that has already been found to have been ineffective, said Dr Jon Brodie, a professorial fellow with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University. Even before the increased funding was announced, the crown-of-thorns program was under attack. Fairfax Media recently reported on research that found that the starfish infestations occurred in natural cycles, and that attempting to eradicate them one by one was not a viable solution. The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) haves welcomed the funding boost but said the biggest problem the Reef faces was climate change, any mention of which was conspicuously absent from the Government’s announcement. "These methods will need to go hand in hand with greenhouse gas mitigation and conventional management" such as no-fish zones, said Paul Hardisty, AIMS CEO. “Boosting the Great Barrier Reef’s resilience so it can withstand the increasing pressures from climate change and other threats is more critical than ever,” said GBRMPA Chairman Dr Russell Reichelt. Predictably, the Greens were even more critical. Queensland Greens Senator Andrew Bartlett said the announcement was a “wasteful publicity stunt” designed to deflect attention from the main problems facing the Reef. “The real beneficiaries of this blatant publicity stunt are the fossil fuel giants and their Liberal Party mates, who will continue to go about their business as usual — certainly not the Reef or the public, who are footing million-dollar bills for wasteful projects that are doomed to fail,” the Cairns Post reported him as saying.   [post_title] => $60 million reef funding ‘will make little difference’ [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 60-million-reef-funding-will-make-little-difference [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-01-30 10:17:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-01-29 23:17:35 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=28961 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 28955 [post_author] => 673 [post_date] => 2018-01-22 14:01:08 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-01-22 03:01:08 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_28956" align="alignnone" width="297"] New Agriculture and Water Resources Minister David Littleproud[/caption] Opponents of releasing more water into the Murray Darling river system for environmental purposes have suffered a defeat. A new independent report says the plan to add 450 gigalitres (GL) annually to the 2750 GL currently released will be good for the environment and have overall socioeconomic benefits. The 300 page report was commissioned by the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council last year. The finding has been welcomed by South Australia, which says the extra water is the bare minimum needed to keep its end of the river system viable. The return of the extra 450 GL was opposed by upriver states NSW, Victoria and Queensland, and by former Water Minister, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, who said he thought it was impossible. The report was a compromise – the upstream states agreed to return the water if an independent report said there was no overall socioeconomic disadvantage. Now that the report has said that, they have little choice but to agree. New Federal Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources David Littleproud said the report is a pathway to reviving the Murray Darling Basin Plan, which has suffered many attacks in recent months and been the subject of acrimonious debate between states and the various elements in the agricultural community. Mr Littleproud said the report follows four months of extensive community and stakeholder consultations across the Basin. He said the report drew on other studies on the social and economic impacts of water efficiency measures, including the effects of off- and on-farm water infrastructure investment and water recovery programs. "The EY study clearly acknowledges governments need to work with communities, irrigators and industry sectors to ensure that efficiency measures have neutral or positive social and economic outcomes—this is critical to better understanding the impacts of water efficiency measures," he said. "All Basin governments agreed to the plan, and I believe this report provides us with a pathway to delivering it. It identifies a range of off-farm and urban water efficiency measures which can safely deliver some water savings without negative social or economic impacts. "I am keen to work with Basin states to begin implementing many of these efficiency measures within the next few months. We can lay out the pathway to do this when the Ministerial Council meets in April this year. "I will not play politics with this. Political fighting creates uncertainty which affects the lives of real people. I've sat around farmers' kitchen tables and seen the strain in their eyes caused by uncertainty. The tiredness caused by working long hours and not knowing what's around the corner. What farmers, rural businesses and communities need most is certainty and to see that we are nearing the light at the end of the tunnel." But the debate is not over. The upstream states are certain to oppose the plan at the next intergovernmental meeting, due in April. The report itself says that more work needs to be done to better understand and monitor the impacts of water efficiency measures. "The study gives us a reference point for a frank, respectful and constructive discussion on efficiency measures and to get cracking on savings which can be made now without social or economic impacts," said Mr Littleproud. "We have all agreed to the Basin Plan. It is important we all act maturely and treat those communities most directly affected in the Basin Plan with the respect they deserve, the respect of certainty. "I remain committed to delivering the plan to which all Basin governments agreed, the 450 GL and delivering efficiency measures without negative social or economic impacts." The report is available here. The key finding: "From the analysis and discussions undertaken, and assuming the recommendations in the report are implemented, there is sufficient evidence the 450 GL can likely be recovered from water efficiency projects on a neutral or positive socioeconomic basis."   [post_title] => New report supports water return to lower Murray Darling [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => new-report-supports-water-return-lower-murray-darling [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-01-22 14:11:27 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-01-22 03:11:27 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=28955 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [10] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 28873 [post_author] => 673 [post_date] => 2018-01-12 09:00:57 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-01-11 22:00:57 [post_content] =>

Record-breaking temperatures across Australia have seen no end to the continued bickering over climate and energy policy in Australia. The release of Keating-era cabinet papers from 1994 show that the Governmnet was struggling with how to address the issue even then. In 1992, Environment Minister Ros Kelly had signed Australia up to the new UN Convention on Climate Change at the Rio Earth Summit. (Remember Ros Kelly and her famous whiteboard, and the ‘Sports Rort’ affair?) In 1994 her replacement John Faulkner pushed for a carbon price, a move that was rejected by Cabinet. Notes from the meeting include this comment: “Climate change is capable of impacting severely on coastal infrastructure, living marine resources and coastal ecosystems such as reefs. The Australian regional oceans strongly influence global climate, and Australia is vulnerable to oceanic changes affecting rainfall and possibly the incidence of tropical cyclones.” Here we are, nearly a quarter of a century later, and nothing has been done. Nothing. A bit of fiddling around the edges, but it has all come to naught. Only this week our current Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg was forced to admit, under intense questioning, that Australia’s total emissions actually rose in 2017. He made all sorts of qualifications, such as saying that they fell in the last quarter, and that per capita emissions were falling, but they don’t hide the policy failure. Hi Government has gone backwards on climate change policy. Tony Abbott famously ‘axed the tax’ (which was not in fact a tax at all), and Malcolm Turnbull has retreated even from an emissions trading scheme. Australia’s Treasurer gloatingly waves around a piece of coal in Federal Parliament. The Climate Council was defunded and power station owners bullied. It’s a mess. Meanwhile, Australia boils. Extreme climatic events worldwide are now commonplace. The recent big freeze on the east coast of North America was laughingly used by the dwindling band of climate change skeptics as evidence of global cooling, when it was in reality a consequence of the imbalances to ocean currents and the jet stream brought about by the planet’s gradual heating. The Government has pushed back on any action, paying lip service to emissions reduction while doing nothing of the sort. Reducing Australia’s emissions will make no difference, we are told, by the same people who say we should set an example to others in our personal behaviour. South Australia, derided by the denial crowd for trying to do something, now has Elon Musk’s ‘world’s biggest battery’. Victoria is getting one too, and NSW’s Conservative Government fiddles while Sydney burns. There is a great science fiction novel, possibly the best ever written, by Kim Stanley Robinson, called ‘2312’. Set in that year, it describes a humankind that has spread across the solar system. Earth is entirely tropical and the areas around the equator uninhabitable. Sea levels in the 21st century rose tens of metres as the icecaps melted, flooding whole countries and most major cities. In the book, Robinson refers to the period between the discovery that man’s actions were warming the planet, and the heating and flooding that came from it, as the ‘Great Dithering’. We are there now. Dithering. Science fiction is science fact. Governments dither, the sea is rising, temperatures are soaring, and we do nothing about it, even as the solution is staring us in the face. [post_title] => Opinion – Hot summer, but no end to climate wars [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => opinion-hot-summer-no-end-climate-wars [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-01-16 09:48:29 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-01-15 22:48:29 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=28873 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [11] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 28699 [post_author] => 673 [post_date] => 2017-12-04 09:41:31 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-12-03 22:41:31 [post_content] =>

The unedifying battle between the Tasmanian State Government and TasWater over who will control the state’s water and sewerage services has been shunted out beyond the next state election, due to be held by May 2018. Premier Will Hodgman’s Liberal Government (there are no Nationals in the Tasmanian Parliament) has tried to take control from TasWater, but has been unable to do so and has conceded defeat – fore now. It will now take the policy to the election, which opinion polls show the Government will find difficult to win. The Government is only in its first term, but the Tasmania electorate is notoriously volatile and the Hare-Clark electoral system, plus the Green’s strong presence in the state, will make it hard for the Liberals to maintain their current five seat majority. TasWater has been responsible for all water supply and sewerage in Tasmania since it was formed in 2013 from the amalgamation of the state’s three previous water authorities: Ben Lomomd Water, Cradle Mountain Water, and Southern Water. Also included in the amalgamation was Onstream, a shared services organisation owned by the three authorities. It has 900 employees, has an annual turnover of just over $300 million, and total assets of $2 billion. It is owned by Tasmania's 29 Local Government Authorities. In its short life TasWater has had a chequered history. The three corporations from which it was formed themselves date only from 2009, when the state’s water market was rationalised after a State Government inquiry found that the previous fragmented system had major problems. TasWater has had a rough time of it. It has been accused of overspending, including the now notorious ‘million dollar duck’ incident in which it launched an inquiry into an employee running over a duck, which involved the hiring of external consultants. That and other accusations of waste and mismanagement led the Government to announce that it would take over TasWater, and bring forward expenditure on various capital works programs. But a select committee of Tasmania’s upper house, the Legislative Council, last month decisively rejected the Government’s plans. The plan was voted down 10 votes to 4 in the Legislative Council, which is dominated by Independents. The matter became a major issue in the recent Pembroke Legislative Council by-election, which saw Labor’s Jo Siejka replace the retiring Liberal Vanessa Goodwin, who has resigned for health reasons. Also standing in that election as an Independent was Doug Chipman, Mayor of Clarence and a former Liberal Party state vice-president. He is also past president of the Local Government Association of Tasmania. He was opposed to the Government takeover of TasWater, and his preferences were instrumental in Labor winning the seat. Mt Chipman criticised the Liberal’s ‘dirty’ campaign, in which they consistently referred his age (71) That became a major issue in the campaign, in is believed to have harmed the Liberals. The Liberal’s campaign to take over TasWater has also not been helped by three separate reports casting doubt on whether it would be any improvement. TasWater chairman Miles Hampton referred to the Government’s plans as a ‘full frontal assault’. “The legislation to takeover TasWater had been assessed in detail by three independent bodies – the Productivity Commission, the Tasmanian Audit Office and the Legislative Council Select Committee – and each had reported on the deficiencies of the State Government’s plan, the risks and inappropriateness of the proposed takeover,” said Mr Hampton. “The only response from Treasurer Peter Gutwein is that these three expert bodies are wrong, but now he wants to hear suggestions. “Well, it is not that simple to counter the findings of three independent expert bodies and particularly as the Legislative Council Select Committee correctly pointed out, there is no crisis in Tasmania’s water and sewerage services as claimed by the Government as the basis for its takeover. “Further, the Government has no feasible plan, no business case, and a doubtful financial model, while TasWater has a sensible, engineering-based plan that is fully funded and we are already delivering on our commitments.” Now everything is on hold until the State Election. The TasWater takeover will be Liberal Party policy at that election, so the plan’s future is very much tied to the Government’s.   [post_title] => The battle over Tasmania’s water [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => battle-tasmanias-water [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-05 09:17:04 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-04 22:17:04 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=28699 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [12] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 28634 [post_author] => 673 [post_date] => 2017-11-27 10:14:06 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-11-26 23:14:06 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_28635" align="alignnone" width="277"] The Murray-Darling Basin (CSIRO)[/caption] South Australia will launch its own Royal Commission into the allocation of water under the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement. The moves follows a number of damning reports on allegations of water theft and mismanagement, and what the South Australian Government regards as a coverup by the Federal and NSW Government. The issue has been brewing for some time, and came out into the open after the ABC’s Four Corners program in July aired serious allegations in July that large scale ‘water theft’ was occurring, and that a senior NSW agriculture bureaucrat were colluding with upstream water users to thwart the Agreement’s aims. Subsequent investigations by the NSW Government revealed the truth of the allegations, and in September the deputy director-general of water at the NSW Department of Industry, Greg Hanlon, was forced to resign after an internal inquiry found that he had shared confidential government information with irrigators to help them lobby against the Plan. "We now have widespread claims of water theft by upstream states," SA Premier Jay Weatherill said, announcing the Royal Commission. "This scandal is so extensive we need a rigorous, independent inquiry with the coercive powers of a Royal Commission. South Australia fought too hard to secure the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement to see our water stolen by greedy upstream irrigators. "It's clear some irrigators in upstream states have no regard for people who live and work downstream." There is no shortage of reports outlining the problems, but with the exception of Mr Hanlon’s resignation nothing has been done. The Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA), the intergovernmental body set up to ensure that the Basin’s water resources are managed in an integrated and sustainable way, released a report on 25 November that found many issues with compliance with the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement. The MDBA report followed from a request for a review from the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, who is also Minister for Water. It set up an Independent panel to report on the issues, including the MDBA’s own compliance role. “There is a notable lack of transparency in NSW, Queensland and Victoria,” said the report. “Transparency is necessary for the community to have confidence the compliance system is doing its job. “As well, by exposing the level, pattern and outcomes of compliance activity, transparency exerts a pressure on water agencies themselves to work effectively. The lack of transparency reflects not only a closed culture, but is also the result of many aspects of compliance not being codified and therefore not able to be published. “Good data is critical to compliance. For NSW and Queensland, water compliance is bedevilled by patchy metering, the challenges of measuring unmetered take and the lack of real-time, accurate water accounts.” In other words, no-one is watching whether people are stealing water or not. There have been separate inquiries into water allocation in the Murray-Darling Basin in the last few years. All have them have said something needs to be done, but little has. Now South Australia has had enough. Malcolm Turnbull said after the announcement of the Royal Commission that he would direct Federal public servants to cooperate with it, but also said it was a politically motivated waste of money. NSW remains non-committal on whether it will cooperate, and Victoria says there should be an inquiry.   [post_title] => SA goes it alone on Murray-Darling Royal Commission [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => sa-goes-alone-murray-darling-royal-commission [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-11-27 10:14:06 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-11-26 23:14:06 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=28634 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [13] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 28605 [post_author] => 673 [post_date] => 2017-11-22 14:00:27 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-11-22 03:00:27 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_28606" align="alignnone" width="300"] The trees are dead - what about the Plan?[/caption] It is five years ago today (22 November) since the announcement of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. But not everybody is happy. The Basin Plan is the latest attempt to reconcile the many demands on water from the extensive river system. It was agreed to at the time by the six governments with jurisdiction over the Basin – Federal, NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and the ACT. They are now squabbling, and many stakeholders say the Plan is not working. The 2012 Plan grew out of the 2007 Water Act 2007, enacted by the Howard Government, which established the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) as an intergovernmental body to ensure that the Basin’s water resources are managed in an integrated and sustainable way. The MDBA operates as an independent statutory authority, reporting to the Federal Minister for Agriculture. That was until recently Barnaby Joyce, former Deputy Prime Minister and head of the National Party, who is currently out of Parliament because of the citizenship issue. The five year anniversary of the Basin Plan has been marked by statements from the Nature Conservation Council and Inland Rivers Network critical of the recent management of the plan, and urging that its original aims be fulfilled. “We urgently need a Royal Commission into all the mismanagement of water occurring across the Basin and especially here in NSW,” said Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski. “It is critical to get the Basin Plan back on track and delivering the outcomes needed for a healthy river system and healthy communities that depend on it.” Inland Rivers Network spokesperson Bev Smiles said: “On the fifth anniversary of the Basin Plan, there are four key outcomes we are asking for across the Basin:
  1. An independent Federal regulator of water management and compliance
  2. An ecologically sustainable river system
  3. Cultural flows and water rights
  4. Vibrant and diverse communities and economies.
Many of their concerns are based on allegations in the ABC’s Four Corners program in July that large scale ‘water theft’ was occurring, and that a senior NSW agriculture bureaucrat were colluding with upstream water users to thwart the Plan’s aims. Subsequent investigations by the NSW Government revealed the truth of the allegations, and in September the deputy director-general of water at the NSW Department of Industry, Greg Hanlon, was forced to resign after it was found that he had shared confidential government information with irrigators to help them lobby against the Plan. Both the Federal and NSW Governments have resisted calls for a formal inquiry, but concerns are growing about the viability of the plan in the face of what is believed to be concerted efforts to undermine it. The South Australian Government has been extremely critical of the NSW Government in particular. SA Water Minister Ian Hunter has accused NSW of a cover up of ‘criminal water theft’ and has called for a Royal Commission. The Murray–Darling system is one of the world’s larger river basins. It covers just over a million square kilometres, or 14 per cent of Australia’s land area. That is around the same area as Spain and France combined. It is home to more than two million people. Total river length is 77,000 km, including Australia’s three longest rivers. It includes virtually all of inland NSW and the entire northern half of Victoria. It takes in the Darling Downs and the Warrego in Queensland, and South Australia’s Riverland. At its eastern end is Australia’s capital city Canberra. The city stands on Lake Burley Griffin, which was formed by the dammed Molonglo River, which flows into the Murrumbidgee, the Murray’s greatest tributary. The Basin produces one third of Australia’s food supply. It contains 40 percent of Australia’s farms and 70 percent of its irrigated farmland. It produces almost all of Australia’s rice and cotton and two thirds of its grapes. More than half Australia’s fruit is grown in the Basin, and it is home to nearly half the country’s sheep. These remarkable statistics illustrate the Basin’s premier position as Australia’s most important agricultural area. It has been farmed intensively for over 150 years, much of it with extensive irrigation systems. Successive governments overallocated the supply, and the ‘millennium drought’ of 2001-09 highlighted the inadequacies of the river system’s management. The creation of the MDBA was the first time ever that the Basin was managed as a whole. The 2012 Basin Plan was seen as a significant step in the century old history of collective water planning and management in the Basin. But now it is in trouble, with the NSW and Federal Governments seeking to change the Plan to give more water to farmers and return less to the river system for environmental purposes. On the evidence, they have already been parties to this happening illegally. Barnaby Joyce, before he left Parliament, said the water theft allegations were not the Commonwealth’s problem, and the NSW Government has been largely silent on the issue. He also boasted to upriver farmers that they would get the water they wanted. The problems are simmering and are likely to explode into a major issue. To many, it already is. Matters are likely to come to a head after the release next year of the Productivity Commission’s major inquiry into the reform of Australia’s water resources sector. The inquiry has received hundreds of submissions, many of them extremely critical of the current situation. The draft report, released in September, said there is much more work to do and that reform priorities should  include “maintaining the key foundations of water management and preventing bad policy habits re‑emerging.” That would not seem to be the case at the moment. [post_title] => Five years on, Murray Darling plan ‘eroded’ [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => five-years-murray-darling-plan-eroded [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-11-24 06:23:11 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-11-23 19:23:11 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=28605 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 14 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 30515 [post_author] => 674 [post_date] => 2018-06-01 09:35:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-05-31 23:35:00 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_30519" align="aligncenter" width="570"] The project drew together government agencies and various community groups.[/caption] A partnership between state and local governments, water utilities, land management and community groups has enabled the most efficient delivery of a large urban waterway project, officials say. Less than a decade ago, Bannister Creek in Perth was a “no-go” area for locals because of significant antisocial behaviour in and around the area. Many houses along the creek screened and fenced it off from view. But today the site is a favourite walk for seniors living in the local aged care facility and among residents walking or excising in the area’s open public space. Houses have been installing see-through screens and back-garden patios to take in the view. Bannister Creek is among the areas that have been rejuvenated in Perth’s Urban Waterways Renewal project - an $8.5 million initiative involving all three levers of government and numerous state agencies and community groups. The project, which successfully engaged 1,600 community volunteers,  retrofitted 11 sections of the urban draining systems within the Canning River catchments in the Perth metropolitan area. Since it began in 2007 the project has restored 3.3 kilometres of traditional urban drainage into living streams, installed more than 424,000 plants, and removed 18 hectares of weeds and 4,600 cubic metres of sediment and rubbish.    But in addition to the water and environmental benefits the project has delivered social, recreational and cultural benefits, including improved public amenity. In a paper presented at a recent international conference on water sensitive urban design, three officials involved in the initiative say it has provided a “blueprint” for future project delivery. “The project has inspired new ways of doing things and is a model that other organisations and governments can follow,” according to Agni Bhandari from the state’s Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, Brett Kuhlmann from South Eastern Regional Centre for Urban Landcare and Scott Davie from the Water Corporation. “A long-term benefit is in the way people are viewing and caring for these sites and seeing what is possible for urban waterways and draining,” they say.

Various stakeholders involved

The project was initiated after the Swan Canning River system was identified as a “hot spot” in 2006 because of its high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous. A funding injection of $4 million from the Commonwealth was matched by the state and three local governments (the cities of Gosnells, Armadale and Canning). In addition to local government, the project involved SERCUL, the water and biodiversity departments and the Water Corporation. “The project drew together local landcare groups, state and local government agencies and, importantly, a volunteer army. More than 1,600 volunteers took part in the project during its lifespan, contributing 6,900 hours of work worth around $200,000,” the officials say. The project had four main aims: healthy water, healthy habitats, educated communities and recreation and wellbeing.

Navigating different agendas

The officials note that as water resources and environmental assets cross departmental boundaries there were many stakeholders involved, each with different interests and often conflicting directives, which could delay progress.
“The project team gathered each of the stakeholders together to collectively identify the opportunities, constraints and to overcome the barriers. The project adopted a multidisciplinary approach to involve internal and external stakeholders to enable a common vision.”
The team also organised five workshops and 17 site tours and successfully engaged eight community groups and 10 schools in the project.

Environmental, social benefits    

The project incorporated a monitoring and evaluation program, which shows the measures taken have contributed to improved water quality, reduced nutrient load, prevention of fish kills and reduced flood risk. It also contributed to reduced heat island effects and improved urban amenity. The officials cite a study that found the project also contributed to a boost in house values in the neighbourhoods around the retrofitted systems. At Bannister Creek, the median home within 200 meters of the restoration site increased in value by $17,000 to $26,000. The project also increased stakeholders’ understanding and knowledge of local hydrology and water technologies, they say.  

‘Leading example’ of project delivery

The officials conclude that the project is a “leading example” of involving partnerships between government agencies, landcare, community groups, schools and volunteers “to achieve outstanding on-ground water management and environmental outcomes.” Given that irregular and insufficient funding is often a key issue in the planning and management of major projects, the officials recommend that relevant agencies and community stakeholders “provide shared ongoing commitments and contribution”. “Ongoing contribution of even a small amount of in-kind support or resources from various agencies and stakeholders can become a significant contribution to expand such projects,” they say.
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