(Debate, 27 February 2014, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)
My contribution to debate on the Snowy Hydro Corporatisation Amendment (Snowy Advisory Committee) Bill 2013 will be brief. The bill replaces the existing Snowy Scientific Committee with a new Snowy Advisory Committee. The role of the committee will remain the same, which is to advise the Government on the timing, volume and effectiveness of environmental flows to the Snowy River and other streams affected by the operation of the Snowy scheme.
The entire aquatic ecological community of the Snowy River is an endangered community and the Snowy River catchment includes populations of the river blackfish, gadopsis marmoratus, which is an endangered species. Both rivers rely on the right volume and timing of environmental flows.
The State's biodiversity is under threat and we must urgently protect what is left. It is fundamental that when and how much of environmental water released from water recovered under the Snowy water licence is determined by science, with an aim to protect this unique and delicate ecosystem. But under this bill representation on the committee will change to replace independent scientific experts with members who are subject to the control and direction of the Minister for Primary Industries. Furthermore, the committee will be funded by, and therefore will be dependent upon, Snowy Hydro Limited—a company that I understand has opposed environmental flows and has an interest in resisting the release of water for environmental purposes.
I share community concern that over time the new make-up of the committee will not guarantee the best environmental flows to protect biodiversity and river health. The Snowy River's biodiversity would be best protected by the existing committee representation. The Snowy River holds deep significance for all Australians and is home to unique wilderness and much beauty. Surely science should dictate environmental water flows that support it. The bill is about removing the independence and scientific input of the committee that is necessary to protect the Snowy River, and I cannot support it.