Ms O'CONNOR question to MINISTER for PRIMARY INDUSTRIES and WATER, Ms PALMER
Esteemed water quality scientist Christine Coughanowr has identified systemic problems with flow-through salmon hatcheries in the Derwent, Hobart's primary drinking water catchment. The Derwent system is vulnerable to toxic algal blooms. Once established, they are almost impossible to eradicate. Do you agree our drinking water is the most precious resource for the people of Hobart and that your 10-year salmon plan has to recognise this unfolding disaster upstream? Do you agree alternatives must be found for flow-through hatcheries to protect our drinking water and river health? What are you going to do to ensure the salmon industry does not impact further on our drinking water supply?
Mr Speaker, I thank the member for the question. I can assure the House that Tasmania's drinking water is not at risk due to irrigation works and claims to the contrary are misinformed.
The Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania (NRE Tas) is responsible for the management, allocation and monitoring of the state's water resources under the Water Management Act 1999. TasWater is responsible for urban drinking water. Water allocation decisions are made in line with objectives in the Water Management Act 1999, water allocation surety levels and the service water allocation decision framework, which establishes the highest level of water surety to urban water, then environmental protection, with irrigation only considered after these.
Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Mr Speaker, under standing order 45, relevance. I understand Ms Palmer is a new minister but this is not about irrigation. This about salmon hatcheries up-river. I ask you to ask the minister to address her mind to the question.
Mr SPEAKER - I take the point on relevance, but it is not an opportunity to restate the question.
Ms O'Connor - It's not about irrigation, it's about hatcheries.
Mr SPEAKER - The minister has the call.
Ms PALMER - Thank you, Mr Speaker. I am attempting to answer the member's question to the very best of my ability but it is important to have some background about water management, so I will continue.
The surety levels for allocating water are in this order, which goes towards the question about Tasmania's drinking water supply. First, we have domestic, town use and firefighting; then the priority is environmental protection; after that, historic water licences and rights; then special licences to generate electricity or similar; then irrigation and commercial users.
The Rural Water Use Strategy specifically provides for the support and ongoing development of policies to encourage water recycling and reuse. Water recycling and reuse is one means to reduce the demand for urban water and irrigation from our waterways, and to this end the department has successfully supported TasWater to secure funds from the National Water Grid Authority for Penna and Bicheno water reuse -
Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Mr Speaker, under standing order 45, relevance. I ask the minister to address the substance of the question, which was about impacts from hatcheries, impacts on our drinking water.
Mr SPEAKER - I will allow the minister to continue. On that point of relevance, I am sure she will make the connection.
Ms PALMER - Mr Speaker, the bells are ringing in the other place and I can no longer be here, I have to go. I am more than happy to either write to Ms O'Connor with an answer or meet with her to discuss this; that would be my preference. I stayed far longer than I should have in order to answer her question, because she indicated that, but unfortunately I do have to leave now. If she would like to take me up on that offer I would appreciate that.