Calls for certainty on water

DEVELOPERS and environmental consultants are united in their call for a single coordinated reform agenda for urban water management in WA.

Industry players want the Government to establish certainty and regulation for developments that impact on WA waterways.

The Urban Development Institute of Australia and several environmental consultants contacted by WA Business News were clear not just on this point but also stressed that developers, wherever possible, were using measures to protect WA’s waterways. 

“Developers of new urban areas are doing the right thing by implementing the best practice available to remove nutrients and contaminants from stormwater before it enters the Swan River system,” UDIA State president Colin Evans said.

Mr Evans also said that there was a responsible pro-active approach by the development industry to minimise environmental impacts, the thrust of which had been to address the contamination issue at the source of collection. 

The UDIA acknowledged recent moves by the State Government towards a more consistent approach to water management but said these were not enough.

Mr Evans said that in the past few years UDIA members had been asked to contribute to more than 12 separate, uncoordinated Government reviews looking at drainage management in Perth.

He said none of the reviews had developed an agreed or final outcome for drainage reform.

Mr Evans told WA Business News that from an industry viewpoint a preferred outcome would be to expand the Water Corporation's already established role to include representatives from the Swan River Trust.

Ideally, this would mean a body capable of “administering the governance function for drainage of the entire State”.

The State Government recently announced a funding boost worth $15 million over four years.

On top of the $750,000 already committed to drainage issues, an extra million dollars a year was pledged.

Environment Minister Judy Edwards said that part of the new package included “new legislation to give the Swan River Trust more teeth and greater powers to co-ordinate river management across all agencies”.

Waters and Rivers Commission principal environmental officer Tom Rose  said he appreciated the sentiment of consolidating government agencies that had control over water.

He said many concerns might go away if the process was unified and made more consistent but no government to date had consistently applied portfolio policies in relation to water.

Dr Rose said there was much that could be done to help WA’s waterways but there was no single system that could solve the problem.

“Some systems which work well under some conditions fail miserably under others,” he said.

“ A composite integrated system is needed.” 

He said that behavioral, economic and cultural change needed to come from the Government in order to show leadership to industry and the community in turn.

In relation to the State Government’s water management policy, environmental management consultant Martin Bowman said there was “far too much emphasis on policy and not enough emphasis on action”. 

In order to redress the problem, Mr Bowman said “more money needs to be spent in more cost-effective ways”.

He said that the quicker the Government and community accepted that there was going to be a real cost to repairing and maintaining the environment, the sooner something could be done about it.

“The technology to deal with these issues is out there but it costs money and money needs to be spent,” Mr Bowman said.


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