A central coordination point for all things water which will cost $4.2 million over two years will have funding plunged into it in the next Territory budget.
The Office for Water is part of efforts to streamline and coordinate water management and policy which is currently dealt with by different parts of the ACT’s bureaucracy.
Minister for Water Shane Rattenbury on Friday (15 July), acknowledged the current approach risked “disjointed policy”.
“[That’s] particularly regarding a failure to either identify opportunities or see some of the risks that are coming because people are operating in silos,” he said.
But he described the creation of the water office as a proactive step, rather than necessitated by previous failures.
“Right now we have a situation where, across the ACT public service, we have a range of people working on water, but it’s often a handful of people in different agencies,” he said.
“We want to improve the coordination … to make sure that our water policy is as joined up as it can be while still recognising the roles those agencies play.”
The additional funding for the Office will allow for four additional staff to be employed but other staff would be brought over from their current roles in different agencies.
Mr Rattenbury hoped that would ensure a stronger team culture.
“One issue we did identify was that with people being spread out across the government, they didn’t feel like they had a peer network to work with,” he said.
“It will be like a hub with spokes coming out of it.”
Some staff members will continue working on water policy within their own agencies – like planning, for example.
Nonetheless, Mr Rattenbury said there had been some improvements in the health of the Territory’s waterways.
The Water Minister told reporters on Friday the office would deal with issues such as ensuring urban lakes and waterways were clean and healthy for community use but also water security as Canberra became drier and hotter in the future.
“We’ve also got regional issues which we need to coordinate with the surrounding councils because our waterways cross [state borders],” Mr Rattenbury said.
The water office, which will be up and running in the coming weeks, was a 2020 election promise by the Greens.
It will be operated primarily out of the ACT Government building in Dickson.
The budget will also pour $722,000 over two years into the Environmental Protection Agency, to enhance its compliance monitoring and regulatory oversight work.
Further commitments include the government working with Icon Water to replace the non-potable water pipeline in Uriarra Village, which it said would increase the firefighting water supply and provide better water security for the settlement.
New flood inundation models will also be completed for higher risk areas of the Molonglo and Queanbeyan Rivers in a bid to improve the city’s flood preparedness.