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Canberra airport's long free drink over as loophole closes

A bureaucratic delay has allowed Canberra Airport to use an unlimited amount of bore water free of charge with no oversight from federal authorities.

The ACT government has been unable to regulate groundwater use by the airport, which is on national land. But the oversight will be fixed and the airport will start paying for bore water from December this year.

An airport spokeswoman said in a statement to The Canberra Times the company had ''some'' bores ''for which we were granted approvals''.

''In that respect we are no different to other Commonwealth landholders in the ACT … there is no arrangement for a usage charge,'' the spokeswoman said.

But a Commonwealth Environment Department spokesperson said it had no record of licences for bores at the airport.

''The airport is not required to hold a groundwater licence … there is no requirement for the airport to report current water usage to the Commonwealth.''

Research fellow at the University of Canberra Institute for Applied Ecology Fiona Dyer said permitting one commercial business to access a finite resource without payment was an obvious mistake.

''The unregulated use of any resource is a problem, it needs to be addressed and changed,'' Dr Dyer said.

She said it would also impinge on the ACT government's ability to make an accurate sustainable water plan.

''There are a whole lot of equity issues as well in terms of why is one commercial operator able to access a resource free of charge when others have to pay for it,'' Dr Dyer said.

A spokeswoman for the ACT Environment Department said the airport would start paying for groundwater use on December 17 this year.

''When water resources on national land are handed over to the territory for management, it is expected that the airport will be licensed by the ACT government for groundwater use.''

They will be subject to an annual licence fee of $384.30 and a water abstraction charge of 25¢ per kilolitre for groundwater used.

In March 2010, Environment Minister Simon Corbell said ACT coffers would swell by $416,000 during the first financial year the government had control of all water registration and licensing in the territory, with $150,000 annually added thereafter.

The legislative changes necessary for the new powers were agreed to in principle in 2010.

The delay has cost the ACT government about $500,000 in forgone revenue.

Acting Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development Katy Gallagher said the Commonwealth began negotiations with the ACT in 2007 to ensure that water abstraction on national land and by Commonwealth bodies could be managed in accordance with the Water Act and on a consistent basis with all other water extractors in the ACT.

''The ACT government passed legislation in 2010 and the Commonwealth did not pass their legislation until 2013. When the Basin Plan was enacted, the impetus was there to make the legislative change,'' Ms Gallagher said.

''The ACT has not lost any revenue because it has not been the ACT's revenue to collect. The ACT will only have responsibility for water management on Commonwealth land from 17 December 2014.''

The 2010 Canberra Airport Environment Strategy makes reference to groundwater use and monitoring, but questions about bore water consumption and figures on use were not answered.

Calls to airport managing director Stephen Byron were not returned and a request for an interview with Mr Byron was denied.

24 comments

  • Canberra Airport's management team "we were granted approvals" for the use of the bore water. Canberra Airport owes Kate Gallagher nothing, absolutely nothing!

    Kate Gallagher is on a money hunt because she squandered the ACT tax payers' money on stupid art, the ridiculous Canberra Centenary celebrations and that woman from Adelaide, and don't forget that balloon with thousands of nipples!

    Stop squandering our money Kate Gallagher! The bore water is on Canberra Airport land and they pay this Labor Clown Government enough in rates as it is!

    By the way Ms Gallagher, when are you going to stop giving approvals for these multi-unit slums being built around Canberra?

    Commenter
    Sharron
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    February 04, 2014, 8:15AM
    • EXACTLY SHARRON.

      Commenter
      NITRO GANGSTER
      Date and time
      February 04, 2014, 9:17AM
    • If it is like oil and gas then you don't own what's underground.

      Commenter
      WotTha?????
      Date and time
      February 04, 2014, 11:29AM
  • Is the University of Canberra paying enough rates and paying enough for their water usage?

    Commenter
    Sharron
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    February 04, 2014, 8:18AM
    • Is there anything you don't have an opinion on Sharryn?

      Commenter
      What
      Location
      Ever
      Date and time
      February 04, 2014, 10:54AM
    • @what - Your spelling of Sharron probably LOL

      Nothing wrong with having an opinion though......

      Commenter
      Deutsch
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      February 04, 2014, 1:01PM
  • Typical that the big end of town gets a free kick. Could I suggest that the ACT Government now take action to charge the Royal Canberra Golf Club for using water from Lake Burley Griffin. If the agreement with the club cannot be overturned perhaps the club could do the right thing and make a contribution to the Territory's coffers.

    Commenter
    hawthorn
    Location
    Merimbula
    Date and time
    February 04, 2014, 8:20AM
    • Being born and bred in Canberra, please explain one thing.. If it's Bore water then it's not resourced nor is it Gov't requirement to charge someone..
      Why do so many have to whinge that another doesn't have to pay for something.. It's WATER from the ground. It's assisting on getting your whinging little butts up in the air in clean planes on clean tar macs so back off.
      Seriously??
      Yes a golfing green is a man made privilege, therefore should indeed be paying to water their greens just as the home owners/renters must pay their water usage..
      Is there nothing better for these small minded people to think about other than how to get more revenue into the kitty??
      I have a suggestion, How's about all the gov't workers and politicians go back to working for the similar dollar value to the every day household.. no more than 5 digits before the decimal. Loose their fuel cards, loose their parking cards & or drivers, their government paid vehicles could be pulled in for execs only.. pay their own parking, pre paid mobile options.. loose their freebies and live like the common Aussie and be proud workers like our for fathers instead of freebie grabbing over paid sloths.
      THEN we won't be so broke in our budget and can look at the important requirements to get this country back in front.

      Commenter
      Jodie
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      February 04, 2014, 8:35AM
      • Great. Now let's resolve that other long-standing 'bureaucratic delay', the flat-out refusal to provide a user-friendly ACTION service to and from the airport.

        Commenter
        Stephen
        Date and time
        February 04, 2014, 8:56AM
        • +1!

          Commenter
          Te-berra-ble
          Location
          Berra
          Date and time
          February 04, 2014, 9:55AM

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