Snowy River Water Flow
The Hon. TONY KELLY: My question is to the Special Minister of State. Will the Minister outline to the House the latest developments in the rejuvenation of the Snowy River?
The Hon. JOHN DELLA BOSCA: Today the Premier of New South Wales and the Premier of Victoria have released the first waters back into the Snowy River. It is the first step in a $300 million, 10-year plan to rescue this historical waterway. It is a great day for one of our nation's mightiest rivers. It is also one of the best examples of how governments can work together to bring about important results. The Snowy scheme was a great international engineering achievement but by current standards it came at a significant environmental cost. We are now repairing some of that environmental damage while still ensuring the future of the Snowy scheme and its important role in supplying electricity and water for irrigation.
The Snowy River is one of the country's most famous icons, rich in history and heritage. It is also immortalised in folklore and poetry. Today's release represents the increasing awareness by all Australians of the need to manage our environment in a sustainable way. Construction of the $1 billion Snowy Mountains scheme began in 1949 and finished in 1974. As part of the official ceremony today the Premiers opened the Mowamba aqueduct between Jindabyne and Dalgety, releasing 38 gigalitres of water a year into the Snowy-doubling the previous flow into the river from 3 per cent to 6 per cent of the original flow.
Under the plan there will be no adverse impact on the water entitlements of irrigators. Increasing the flow of the Snowy River will improve the natural plant and animal habitats, particularly important for threatened species. Fifty years ago only a few people recognised the potential for environmental damage to the Snowy River created by the Snowy scheme. Today we understand that we need to balance our economic, social and environmental goals to ensure that we do not reduce the choices for future generations. The Mowamba aqueduct previously diverted water from the Mowamba River to the Jindabyne Dam. The ultimate objective of the rescue plan is to boost the Snowy River's flow to 28 per cent of its original level.
The interim targets for the Snowy River are to achieve 15 per cent of original flow levels within seven years and 21 per cent in 10 years. Under the plan the New South Wales and Victorian governments will contribute $150 million each to increase water flows down the Snowy River. The Commonwealth will contribute a further $75 million for dedicated environmental flows into the Murray River. Water flowing down the Snowy River would be returned to the equivalent of 21 per cent of the river's original flows. An additional 70 gigalitres will flow into the Murray River and about 120 gigalitres of water will flow into alpine rivers within the Kosciuszko National Park.
The capacity of the Snowy scheme to protect against drought will remain the same and the Snowy hydro system will continue to meet critical demand for electricity supply. Also, there will be no adverse impact on water security or quality for South Australia. Under the Snowy rehabilitation plan 60 kilometres of blackberry and willow trees are being removed from the banks of the Snowy River and will be replaced by 40,000 native trees. Without the commitment of the Victorian and New South Wales governments the restoration of environmental flows to the Snowy River would never have happened.