18 October, 2012

Fees, Green Tape and Water Restrictions


Queensland’s Environment and Heritage Protection department now charges a fee for a number of activities associated with transitional environmental programs, including assessing a draft program, assessing an annual return, monitoring compliance and amending an approved program. Information about the fees is on the department’s website

Green Tape Feedback

The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection is seeking feedback on proposed amendments to the Environmental Protection Regulation 2008 to remove a number of environmentally relevant activities and amend certain fees.

The draft regulatory assessment statement is supported by the Assigning Environmentally Relevant Activities to Assessment Tracks report.

For more information about the implementation of the Greentape Reduction project, visit the department of Environment and Heritage Protection’s website.  Feedback on the draft regulatory assessment statement can be provided until
5.00 pm on 26 October 2012. ASBG will be putting together a submission. Please send your submission in writing to: epact.policy@ehp.qld.gov.au

Lifting Water Restrictions

Water Minister Mark McArdle has distanced himself from a report the Queensland Government has a plan to ease water restrictions to raise revenue and said it was not the government's responsibility anyway.
There has been speculation in that permanent water restrictions were "under review, with regard to water availability, climatic trends and future demands''.

Water Efficiency Management Plans (WEMP) for non-residential customers over 10megalitres will be retained under the Water Act 2000.
It is alleged the LNP Government are counting on increased water use to help pay for the debt on the SEQ water grid.
The Minister has acknowledged that he has sought advice on the future of the $2.5 billion recycled water plant at Bundamba and $2 billion desalination plant at Tugan on the Gold Coast.
South-East Queensland councils and businesses will be given a reprieve on water usage following changes to water restrictions by the Queensland Water Commission (QWC).
Many restrictions will be lifted following a QWC review of Permanent Water Conservation Measures currently in place. The review was undertaken as an action under the South-East Queensland Water Strategy.
Water Minister Mark McArdle brought in the initial changes in April 2012, to cut  red tape for businesses and councils, allowing more flexible water use. The Queensland Water Commission, is being abolished on 1 January 2012, was taken back into Minister McArdle's department in July.
A spokesman for Mr McArdle said that the Water Commission's powers to decide water restrictions would be transferred to the new merged bulk water entity at the end of the year.
QWC restrictions will not continue beyond this date unless statutory amendments are made to continue these functions.  The plan would reverse years of the previous government initiatives aimed at limiting water use.
Relaxation of water restrictions is likely to face strong resistance from consumers who have learned to make do with less after years of drought. Despite the planned cutbacks and revenue-raising, the QLD Government faces a struggle to honour election pledges to reduce water bills to ease cost-of-living pressures.
In the short term, the QLD Government is eyeing some creative accounting to allow the newly merged super water supplier to start debt free with enough capital to allow water prices to fall.
Treasury officials are understood to be looking at shuffling some $3 billion of debt off the existing water utilities and on to the Government's books.
The new water super supplier, to be set up in January and running by July, would then be debt free.  Without debt to service, it would have enough capital to allow water prices to drop and encourage increased consumer use of water.
A spokesman for Treasurer Tim Nicholls said the Government was "yet to decide on a change to the capital structure of the new entity". He insisted the merger would bring "greater efficiencies in terms of water distribution and reduce water bills for residents of southeast Queensland".
The Government inherited a $7 billion water infrastructure debt burden from prior incumbert that is costing it more than $400 million a year in interest.
The previous Government’s legacy also included a sophisticated water grid and dams with enough water in them for at least 10 years of supply at current low rates of usage. The  opposition, did not directly criticise the move to sell more water, but a spokesman said it was something that would be determined by the market.
The Queensland Water Commission said in its annual report this month: "Even if SEQ was to experience a drought as serious as 2001-2009, the region would not expect to enter restrictions for five years."
Additional revenue of about $66 million would be generated in 2012/13 if residential consumption of water was 200 litres a day rather than the frugal current level of 170 litres per person a day, Government insiders say.

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