LOWER LIMESTONE COAST WATER ALLOCATION PLAN FOLLOW UP

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 14:30 :36 ): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Water and the River Murray a question about the Lower Limestone Coast Water Allocation Plan.

Leave granted.

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: On 10 September this year, members may recall that in question time I asked the minister why the people of the South-East still had no clarity about the delivery component of their licences. Since then, I have been in contact with one irrigator who was heavily involved in the volumetric conversion process. He has expressed concern that many irrigators did not know that a reduction in their allocation has occurred and some did not apply because they were confused by the correspondence.

When he became aware of his allocation he contacted neighbours: one indicated that he thought the form that was sent out only required an application for additional water to his historic use based on submitted records; another neighbour indicated the same interpretation. If flood irrigators have not been allocated their flood delivery component, it makes a mockery of the resources contributed by many volunteers as well as the paid staff to develop the delivery component conversion.

Apparently the leaflets and facts sheets clearly state that the delivery component will be available to all flood irrigators but the additional crop and bridging volumes will be available on application. The delivery component is defined as 'the volume of water that a reasonably efficient irrigator needs in excess of the crop water requirement to irritate and grow the crop'. My questions to the minister are:

1.How many flood irrigators in the Lower Limestone Coast have not been allocated their flood delivery component?

2.When was it decided to change the policy from the delivery component being available to all and crop component on application to a policy whereby the delivery component would need to be applied for but that the crop requirement would be based on historic records without the need for application?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:32 :54 ): I thank the honourable member for his most important question and his ongoing interest in this area of important policy. The South-East of South Australia is of great economic and ecological importance for our state. The values are underpinned by the water resources of the Lower Limestone Coast. To provide certainty for water users and ensure water resources are sustained in the long term and protect water‑dependent ecosystems, the South East Natural Resources Management Board has collaborated with the community, industry and government to develop the Lower Limestone Coast Water Allocation Plan.

Community and industry input into this water allocation plan was sought and received over an extended period and has assisted in the production of final policies that are being applied to the region. As the minister, I adopted the Lower Limestone Coast Water Allocation Plan on 26 November 2013. As I have said in this place before, in what is believed to be a world first, the Lower Limestone Coast Water Allocation Plan will license both direct groundwater extraction and interception of groundwater recharge by commercial forestry. It is a major step forward towards accounting for and managing all significant users of the resource and is part of the state's obligations under the National Water Initiative.

The introduction of these forest water licences has been well supported, I am advised. The Lower Limestone Coast Water Allocation Plan converts existing area-based water allocations to volumes and in what is also believed to be a world first, provides for commercial plantation forests to have a water allocation for recharge intersection and direct groundwater extraction.

A risk assessment also identified eight groundwater management areas where the current level of allocations presented a high or very high risk to the sustainable use of the resource. Reductions to allocations are scheduled to occur over the next eight years ranging from 3 per cent to 57 per cent as a result of the risk assessment results. Further adjustments to the water allocation were made by the South East Natural Resources Management Board and myself. The South East Natural Resources Management Board made some changes to fix small errors and omissions in the plan on 27 February 2014 and I made changes on 10 December 2014 to reflect the legal requirements to obtain a forest water licence.

The plan has been updated on the Natural Resources South East website, where both the amended plan and a table of the changes are available to view or download. Key stakeholders were informed of these changes, and the necessary Natural Resources Management Act regulations to allow the issue of forest water licences came into operation, I am advised, on 1 July 2014. All the forestry water licences were issued for the first time last financial year.

I have already put on record, extensively, the extensive communication we have had with water users in the South-East. I won't trouble the chamber by putting that extensive list on the record again but, as I said to the honourable member in my last answer, I believe, we are working with local landholders and the NRM board to address those issues and, as I said, I am waiting for advice from my department before we proceed any further.

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 14:35 :28 ): A supplementary question—in fact, the original question: how many flood irrigators have not been delegated their flood delivery component?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:35 :36 ): I can't answer that question.

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 14:35 :43 ): Will the minister take that particular previous question on notice and bring back a reply? My second supplementary question, and I reiterate the first question, is: when was it decided to change the policy from a delivery component available to all, and crop component on application, to a policy whereby the delivery component needed to be applied for but the crop component would be based on historic records without the need for application? When was the change of policy?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:36 :11 ): I will have to engage with the NRM board about their determinations about that and find the dates for the honourable member, which I am quite happy to do. As I said previously, I have already put on record the long and substantial correspondence with the community down there through public engagements, through town hall meetings, through letters, notices and journals, etc. If the honourable member would like that information once again, I will bring that back to the chamber as well.

 

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