This Act amends the River Improvement Trust Act 1940 (Qld), Water Act 2000 (Qld), and the Water Reform and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2014 (Qld) to address water resource management. The objectives of the amendments are to align Water Reform and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2014 provisions with new 2015 Labour Government's policy and election commitments, and further to ensure provisions for water planning instruments appropriately transition existing instruments and processes into the new water planning framework and that the new framework can operate effectively.
The amendments reinstate the principles of ecologically sustainable development into the new purpose of the Water Act, and replacing the term 'responsible and productive management' with 'sustainable management'. The Act also proposes omitting the water development option provisions which allow ‘the granting of an option to proponents of large scale water infrastructure developments that [give] a commitment of future access to water’ and provisions for the declaration of designated watercourses. In his Explanatory Speech, the Minister expressed 'concerns that those options could be granted to proponents outside of the proper planning process and without appropriate community consultation, transparency or reference to independent science.'
The Water Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 was referred to the Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources Committee whose inquiry received 103 submissions. The committee noted that the Government's consultation on the Bill was excellent, and that a majority of stakeholders supported the amendments. In relation to the principles of ecological sustainability, the committee was unable to reach a consensus. Government members of the Committee supported the omission of the water development option while non-Government members did not. The Committee acknowledged the needs for a process to provide certainty of future water access in early stages of projects. The committee recommended the Department of Natural Resources and Mines continues to investigate alternatives for securing water for large scale projects while taking into account the impact on communities. The Committee supported the omission of provisions relating to designated watercourses.
These amendments may impact native title through the water resource management schemes provided for in this Act. Sustainable management is defined to include the recognition of the interests of Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders and their connection with water resources, and facilitation of the community taking an active part in planning for the management and allocation of water. Implications are two-fold – they may result in management authorities carrying out works on native title lands, or they may allow the involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in water resource management.
Please see the Explanatory Speech or Explanatory Notes for more information.