ACT government’s water investment supports policy

A central coordination point for all water investments will cost $4.2 million over two years. It will have funding plunged into it in the next Territory budget.

The Office for Water is part of efforts to streamline and coordinate water management and policy. Prior to this, it was dealt with by different parts of the ACT’s bureaucracy. Minister for Water Shane Rattenbury, on 15 July, acknowledged the current approach risked “disjointed policy”.

“[That’s] particularly regarding a failure to either identify opportunities or see some of the risks because people are operating in silos,” said Rattenbury.

He described the creation of the water investment office as a proactive step rather than necessitated by previous failures.

“Right now, we have a situation where, across the ACT public service, we have a range of people working on water policy. It’s often a handful of people in different agencies,” said Rattenbury.

“We want to improve the coordination to ensure that our water policy is as joined up as possible while still recognising the roles those agencies play.”

The additional funding will allow four additional staff to be employed. Other staff would be brought over from their current roles in different agencies. He hoped that would ensure a stronger team culture.

“One issue we did identify was that with people being spread out across the government, they didn’t feel like they had a peer network to work with,” he said.

“It will be like a hub with spokes coming out of it.”

Water investment combines offices for better policy decisions

Some staff members will continue working on water policy within their own agencies, like planning.

Mr Rattenbury said improvements to Canberra’s waterways had been delivered recently, such as at the Dickson and Lyneham Wetlands.

Nonetheless, Rattenbury said there had been some improvements in the health of the Territory’s waterways.

The Water Minister told reporters that the office would deal with issues such as ensuring urban lakes and waterways were clean and healthy for community use and water security as Canberra became drier and hotter in the future.

“We’ve also got regional issues which we need to coordinate with the surrounding councils because our waterways cross [state borders],” Rattenbury said.

The water investment office, which will be up and running in the coming weeks, was a 2020 election promise by the Greens. It will be operated primarily out of the ACT Government building in Dickson. The budget will also pour $722,000 over two years into the Environmental Protection Agency. It will enhance its compliance monitoring and regulatory oversight work.

Further commitments include the government working with Icon Water to replace the non-potable water pipeline in Uriarra Village. It said it would increase the firefighting water supply and provide better water security for the settlement. New flood inundation models will also be completed for higher-risk areas of the Molonglo and Queanbeyan Rivers to improve the city’s flood preparedness.

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