Having considered the panel’s advice, on 19 December 2013 the government released an Exposure Draft of the Water Bill for comment. This combines and streamlines the two main Acts relating to water, namely the Water Act 1989 (Vic) and the Water Industry Act 1994 (Vic). The public was invited to make submissions and participate in a series of public forums held around Victoria in early 2014. The Advisory Panel and the Minister for Water, Peter Walsh, will finalise the Exposure Draft with the aim of introducing it into parliament later this year. The new Act is expected to commence on 1 January 2016.
According to the Department of Environment and Primary Industries (‘DEPI’) and the Office of Living Victoria (‘OLV’), the key proposals of the Exposure Draft are as follows: it enables delivery of the Victorian government’s Living Victoria policy and Melbourne’s Water Future Strategy; consolidates in one place the water management arrangements for a particular area, which will help improve understanding of these arrangements; targets processes for identifying and managing long-term risks to water resources so they are more efficient; clarifies and simplifies processes for licences and water shares; clearly defines the functions of water corporations and catchment management authorities; and enhances and modernises the compliance and enforcement regime with more alternatives to court action and new penalties that are in line with the nature of the offences.
Further information about the review process and a copy of the Exposure Draft are available for download:
KATIE O’BRYAN lectures in law, and is a PhD candidate at Monash University.