Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment

Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment

Speech: First Creek Wetland Opening Adelaide Botanic Garden

Friday, 22 November 2013

Well thank you so very much Steven it's a wonderful pleasure to be here, to Uncle Lewis O'Brien, I acknowledge you and the Elders past and present of the Kuarna people. To Judy Potter the Chair of the Botanic Garden, to Minister Ian Hunter representing the State government and the State government and the Botanic Garden deserve enormous praise for driving this project and their financial contribution.

It really is a pleasure to be here today. As the ducks just flew overhead before I was thinking if I was still in Canberra, the only thing flying overhead and around you, and into you and in to your pockets and everywhere else in Parliament House Canberra at present are Bogong moths, which have invaded the National Capital's building and get into absolute everything. So it's a real delight to be here where you actually get ducks flying overhead as they go to that beautiful scene behind me right now.

This is a remarkable day and not just because we're marking this facility, it's also a milestone day in terms of national water reform and how we harness and recognise the use of waters around Australia. Water reform in Australia has happily been a largely bipartisan exercise. It dates right back to at least 2004 when the then Howard Government working with states of all political persuasions signed onto the National Water Initiative. An initiative that sought to give water an economic value, a recognition that it was something that we should manage carefully, preserve, trade, seek maximum use from, but also importantly it sought to recognise that there was a level of over allocation and to commit to address and sustainably manage our water resources.

Then in 2007 the next wave of reform came with the implementation of the National Plan for Water Security, one of the last acts of the then Howard Government. That provided some $10 billion worth of funding for a range of different types of projects, including the one that is here today, but it also set in place the trajectory for the implementation of the Murray Darling Basin Plan. And 12 months ago today, the then Labor Government finalised that Murray Darling Basin Plan and so it is a notable day on the water reform calendar because it is indeed the first anniversary of the Murray Darling Basin Plan, which seeks to return some 2750 billion litres of water to the environmental flows of the Murray Darling Basin as a minimum.

Importantly we are well on the way to that with nearly 1800 billion litres having been returned already and the trajectory is looking sound to meet the objectives by 2019 and to ensure that the adjustment mechanism and other activities that can hopefully give us even greater environmental outcomes are fully realised and delivered upon.

Projects like this are really valuable icon projects in terms of demonstrating that it's not just massive reform of our major river systems that's important, but it is important and vital that we manage every drop of water through our environment, through our systems as carefully as we possibly can. And the idea that the Botanic Garden has realised here of saying we can capture and store our storm water in something that is as beautiful and scenic as these wetlands that compliments and adds to the Botanic Garden and the nature and environment around here is a clear demonstration and in doing so make the Botanic Garden self-sufficient in the long run in terms of their water resources is a real demonstration and accomplishment of how we can best manage our water in the future.

Potable water, drinking water is expensive. It's expensive to generate, it's expensive to deliver and it should be used as scarcely as possible. Where we can we should be striving to ensure that our parks and gardens, be they public infrastructure like this, or in new developments or elsewhere realise the capacity to reuse stormwater, to resuse base water and to ensure that we get maximum value out of every possible drop. For that reason I give a very warm congratulations to the Botanic Garden, to the State government, to all those who have championed this project. It really has been a great success and you can see that by looking out behind me today.

In the years before going in to the Senate, I spent about six years working in the National Wine Centre just over to my right and I thought I had the greatest view in the world looking out of my office over there at those times, but now I think just how much better the view from those offices must be and how much better it must be for anybody who gets the chance to come into the Garden to enjoy wonderful facilities, to enjoy the learning experiences that have been set up here, to enjoy the hard work that has now come to fruition of the many people.

My congratulations to all those who have worked on this project, my congratulations to all those who helped bring it to reality. It is a pleasure to be here today to share in this landmark occasions with you all.

Simon Birmingham