On Tuesday the Legislative Council passed two bills: the first relating to the raising of the Warragamba Dam wall and the second updating key emergency services legislation.
House of Origin: Legislative Council
The bill amends the Water NSW Act 2014 to remove a technical barrier to the temporary inundation of national park land which would result from the raising of the Warragamba Dam wall for flood mitigation purposes. The bill requires Water NSW to prepare a draft environmental management plan regarding the temporary inundation of national park land as a result of raising the dam wall.
At the conclusion of the second reading debate on 26 September the bill was referred to the State Development Committee for inquiry and report following a recommendation by the Selection of Bills Committee.
The State Development Committee completed and tabled its report on 10 October (see the Committees blog entry for more about the inquiry). One of the Committee’s recommendations was that the Legislative Council proceed with debate on the bill.
On Tuesday, the House resumed debate and agreed to allow Mr Veitch and Mr Blair to speak for a second time to address the findings of the committee inquiry (see Hansard for a transcript of debate). Following this, an amendment from Mr Field to refer the bill to Portfolio Committee No. 6 for a more comprehensive inquiry was defeated on division (17:21). The question on the second reading of the bill was then passed on division (20:17).
The Greens moved six amendments in committee designed to limit any raising of the height of the dam wall to a maximum 14 metres, to adjust preparations of the draft environmental management plan (EMP) provided for by the bill, and to make the draft EMP publicly available and open for public submissions. Notwithstanding the support of The Greens and the Opposition, as well as of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers and the Animal Justice Party to some amendments, all of the amendments were defeated on divisions. The third reading was agreed to and the bill was forwarded to the Legislative Assembly without amendment.
House of origin: Legislative Assembly
The bill seeks to make a range of amendments to key emergency management legislation to enhance and modernise New South Wales’ disaster response and recovery arrangements. This includes amendments to the functions of the Commissioner of Fire and Rescue NSW, the making of total fire bans and ensuring that government employees do not face personal liability when exercising their functions.
The bill formally recognises Volunteer Marine Rescue NSW and Surf Life Saving NSW as emergency service organisations, reflecting the ongoing and significant role that these organisations play. Further the bill seeks to amend the definition of “emergency” to include a specific reference to the failure of an essential service or infrastructure, such as a power outage. This recognises that these disruptions can pose the same threat to life and property as a bushfire or flood, and therefore requires the same level of planning and coordinated response. The bill also abolishes the State Disasters Council and transfers its functions to the State Emergency Management Committee.
During debate on the second reading, the Opposition and The Greens said they were unclear about the origin of the reforms and why they were necessary. For this reason the Opposition sought to refer the bill to Portfolio Committee No. 4 – Legal Affairs for inquiry and report. The Greens indicated their support to send the bill to a committee, however it was lost on the voices and the bill was read a second time (see Hansard for further details of the debate).
In committee the Opposition moved 10 amendments and the Greens moved a single amendment. Only one Opposition amendment was agreed to. This ensured that the State Rescue Board’s register of accredited rescue unit personnel must be reported every six months or another period as specified by the board. The Opposition wanted to ensure that a defined reporting period remained in the legislation. All other amendments were defeated, including three on divisions (17:19). Most of these amendments concerned removing sections in the bill relating to the functions of the NSW Rural Fire Service and the Commissioner of Fire and Rescue NSW. The Opposition and Greens supported each other’s amendments, which were also supported by the Animal Justice Party. The Christian Democratic Party opposed the amendments, along with the Government.
The bill was reported to the House with an amendment, read a third time and returned to the Assembly. The Assembly will now consider the Council’s amendment.
The following members spoke to the adjournment debate:
- Mr Martin – Gosford Central Business District
- Mr Veitch – Go NSW Equity Fund
- Mr Buckingham – Drought and Climate Change
- Mr Fang – Lockhart Water Tower Mural / Temora Warbirds Downunder Airshow
- Ms Sharpe – Corunna State Forest / Windsor Heritage Forum
- Ms Faehrmann – Domestic Violence
See Hansard for details of the debate.