The Liberal Party secured key amendments in the Legislative Council to new laws in relation to water licensing, which will provide greater certainty for water licence holders already stressed because of the extended drought. (Monday, 25 June 2007)
Shadow Environment and Conservation Minister Michelle Lensink said the amendments put forward by the Opposition during debate on the Natural Resources Management (Water Resources and other matters) Amendment Bill would help make life easier for irrigators.
“The South Australian Farmers Federation was concerned that under the current law, irrigators only had to be given seven days notice of water allocations being reduced,” Ms Lensink said.
“To remedy this situation, an amendment was moved to ensure that irrigators would be given a fortnights notice if their allocation was to be cut.
“The extra notice will give irrigators the chance to make sound business decisions such as the timing of planting annual crops.
“During the debate of the Bill, the Opposition also moved another amendment to give irrigators greater appeal rights regarding their water licences.
“If for example an irrigator wanted to drill a water bore on their property, the Minister could avoid making a decision for up to six months.
“We believe this would merely allow the government too much time to make a decision, while an irrigator’s crops could be dying while they were waiting for their licence application to be processed!
“Under the new amendment, the longest the Minister can take to make a decision regarding a water licence application is three months. If the Minister takes any longer than this, the irrigator can take the Minister to the Environment Resources and Development court to solve the matter.
“The court also has the power to order the Minister to pay the applicant’s court costs.
“We also moved to ensure that by law, the Minister would have to deal with a water application as ‘expeditiously as possible’.
“I am confident that these amendments will send a strong message to the government that it needs to process applications and transfers more efficiently. The appeal provisions will give greater rights of appeal to licence holders and applicants and thereby certainty for many primary producers.”
Ms Lensink said that the Liberal Party worked hard to ensure that the Bill passed through both houses of parliament in one sitting week so that it could receive assent from the Governor before June 30. Unfortunately, there is a cloud over its legality because the Leader of the Government had a hissy fit and therefore shut down the Legislative Council early and before the message came back from the House of Assembly that it had agreed to the Bill.