The Victorian Coalition released their water policy yesterday afternoon. It's available here
The policy is one of the most substantial policy statements made by the Coalition this election with 29 pages of detail. It contains many positive initiatives, particularly in relation to urban water efficiency and reuse. Further detail on environmental flows is promised in the Coalition’s yet to be released environmental policy. By contrast the ALP is yet to release a substantial water policy this election.
However the water policy also includes some worrying elements, in particular funding feasibility studies into expanded dams at Lake William Hovell and Lake Buffalo in northern Victoria, and the Coalition’s rejection of the draft Murray Darling Basin Plan. Without a strong Murray Darling Basin Plan the Murray Darling system will continue to decline and parts of the system will collapse.
Here’s a summary of the highlights and lowlights:
- Will establish a Ministerial Advisory Council to report within 100 days of taking office on the planning, regulation, pricing, legislative changes and management required to improve the sustainability of Victoria’s water use.
- Will establish new planning benchmarks for sustainability.
- Will establish a $50 million fund over 4 years to promote water sensitive urban design.
- Will increase water efficiency rebates by $40 million and extend rebates to new products and small business.
- State that they support “the transition of all existing housing stock to meet an average of 5 star rating”, though don’t attach a date or any detail to this commitment.
- Promise that all government major projects will require rainwater capture and reuse.
- Promise major substitution of recycled water, rainwater and stormwater for Melbourne’s potable water supplies. For example they promise a substitional target of 110 billion litres of water by 2015 and 200 billion litres of water by 2030. These are very significant targets, though there is no funding allocated to achieving the targets. It appears that the primary means of reaching the target will be through reducing prices for recycled water and upgrading the Eastern Treatment Plant, though there are no budgetary allocations to achieve these outcomes. Likewise they promise to close the Gunnamatta outfall “in their second term of parliament” but provide no detail on how this would be achieved.
- Promise to “phase-out Melbourne’s reliance on the north-south pipeline”
- Promise to honour “existing Labor Government commitments to additional environmental flows in the Yarra, Thomson, Murray and Snowy Rivers.”
- Promise to scrap water restrictions by 2012 regardless of status of water storages.
- Outline that they do not support the draft Murray Darling Basin Plan and will not join a national Basin Plan until 2019. This potentially means that if the Coalition is elected in Victoria action to rescue the Murray Darling Basin will be further delayed and diluted, with devastating consequences for the rivers.
- Fund feasibility studies and planning for a possible dam for the Lindenow Valley on the Mitchell River and for expanded dams at Lake William Hovell and Lake Buffalo.