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Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
12 November 2000
Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill has released the Environmental Assessment Report on the proposed corporatisation of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority in accordance with the provisions of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act.
Senator Hill said there was no environmental reason why corporatisation per se could not proceed. However, two associated issues, in the view of the Minister, required further consideration. The first relates to the incidental consequences upon the long term health of the Murray of the diversion of up to 295 gigalitres of water for environmental flows to the Snowy River
"It means any additional water subsequently needed for the Murray would be more expensive and more difficult to find," Senator Hill said.
"Furthermore, what additional water would be necessary for environmental flow to the River Murray will not be known until the Murray-Darling Basin Commission report Environmental Flows and Water Quality Objectives for the River Murray is completed and released in March next year."
Senator Hill said improved environmental outlooks for both the Snowy River and the River Murray should be the objective.
"In order to meet that objective all governments need a better understanding of what additional water will be needed for both rivers - not just the Snowy," Senator Hill said.
"There could then be the necessary public debate on the sources of such water, the cost and who should pay."
Senator Hill said it was unclear whether or not water savings proposed to be allocated to the Snowy were available.
This reinforced the concern as to whether further environmental flows for the Murray would be available.
The second major issue was whether the proposed water licence designed to maximise the energy output of the Snowy Hydro was sufficiently flexible to allow the best water management decision in relation to both the economic and ecological sustainability of the Murray.
"This is a decision to grant a licence for 75 years to a background where future national interests in relation to water are unclear," Senator Hill said.
Senator Hill said that this matter also needed further consideration.
Senator Hill has adopted the conditions attached to the Environment Assessment Report and made his recommendations to Senator Minchin. Senator Minchin will consider the recommendations in making his decisions in relation to corporatisation.
A copy of the Environment Assesment report will be available at the Australian EIA Network from midday on Sunday November 12 at: http://www.environment.gov.au/epq/eianet/whatsnew.html
Contact: Belinda Huppatz 0419 258 364
For release: Sunday November 12, 2000