Half way through its first term the Ballieu government is beginning to implement its reform agenda for water management in Victoria. The program is ambitious and covers many of the areas that the Stormwater industry has long recognised as being vital if truly integrated water reform is to be achieved.
When coming to Office water minister Peter Walsh established a The Living Victoria, Living Melbourne Ministerial Advisory Council (MAC) with the task of taking a ‘clean sheet’ examination of the water industry and to make recommendations on directions forward. An interim report in the form of a Roadmap was released in mid 2011. The Roadmap recognised that a ‘prize’ was on offer and the Government set about undertaking a systematic review of the entire system to understand where, how and what improvements were possible.
In late April the MAC released its implementation plan and was adopted in full by the Government in its response in time for the State budget in early May.
High on the reform agenda is the establishment of a new entity, the Office of Living Victoria.
The OLV will oversight many aspects of water policy across the state and will be charged with developing an overarching framework that will allow other tiers of government and regulators to work in a more holistic framework.
Other key reform initiatives include:
Overhauling the water planning framework to allow effective integration with urban planning in response to community needs. There is a disconnect between town planning and infrastructure that means opportunities to make use of alternate water sources are lost, waterway and biodiversity continues to degrade, there are lost opportunities to improve urban amenity and flood protection is often compromised for higher development.
The MAC reforms recognise these shortcomings as opportunities for better investment and co-ordination and recommend a suite of actions including:
- amendments to water and land use planning legislation
- new valuation frameworks to value integrated water cycle management
- localised planning frameworks to better consider opportunities
- amendment of water related performance objectives for the water, planning and building industry
- implementing new water performance standards for buildings to reduce potable demand and runoff
Transform the way we manage water resources and the water system.
Underpinning the MAC recommendations was a ‘whole of system’ water model developed by Bonacci Water which looked at Melbourne’s historic and future water system for a range of scenarios. By examining the operation of the entire system the model changes the perspective that Melbourne’s is a water supply and sewerage system that is operated by gravity, and found that transaction, treatment and transport costs are significantly costs understated.
Following on from this work the MAC recommends changes to clarify roles and responsibilities across the sector, and legislative, policy and regulatory changes to improve water system performance and related outcomes (many of which focus on facilitating the uptake of alternative water sources).
An important component of this reform element is taking advantage of all available water resources (including using rainwater, stormwater and recycled water for uses that do not require water of drinking quality), in order to reduce demand for drinking water and match water management options to suit local context.
Link to YouTube video
Led by Mike Waller, an economist of high repute, responsible for advising on the restructure of BHP in the late ‘90s and with a track record on advising on policy and organisational reform the Living Victoria recommendations were developed by an expert panel which included Rob Skinner (previous MD of Melbourne Water), Professor Rob Adams (Director of City Design at the City of Melbourne) and Sue Halliday (past NSW Director General of planning). It is a point of speculation what value proposition was put to the government when presenting recommendations, but what is abundantly clear is that the stormwater industry has a central role in delivering on this.