Managing our water resources is, and will become increasingly challenging for urban development in the future. The State’s growing population together with a drying climate will impair the availability of water. As such a strategic approach is needed to ensure that competing social, economic and environmental demands for water are appropriately managed with water secured for all of our needs. Meanwhile, the dynamic nature of our wetlands and waterways has proved difficult for governments to manage. Uncertainty frequently surrounds acceptable wetland buffer widths and acceptable land uses adjacent to wetlands and waterways.
The current approvals process associated with the management of water is outdated, inefficient and ineffective. Project timelines are impacted by overlap in regulatory requirements, limited information sharing between agencies, gaps in regulators’ knowledge and incomplete recycled water guidelines that are inconsistent with national guidelines. Inefficient approval processes, such as the excessive time taken to assess dewatering licence applications, adds significant cost to development and threatens the integrity of the system.
Greater recognition is also needed of the value of wetland environments. The absence of public open space (POS) credits for wetlands and the treating of buffers as restricted open space, devalues wetlands and offers no economic incentive for the preservation of wetlands in urban areas. Allowing such credits would help increase water conservation through the use of POS for passive recreation and reduce costs to the state for acquisition of wetlands as they would be included in POS calculations.
The UDIA calls for:
- A government commitment to the use of fit for purpose water, with the investigation and adoption of innovative water recycling methods.
- Streamlined approval processes, that includes for alternative water systems and recognising the benefits that they can provide.
- The advancement of water sensitive design and an integrated water system that utilises all available water resources to ensure resilience against climate change.
- Clear and consistent guidance regarding the management of wetlands, waterways and any associated buffers, with accurate and contemporary mapping and information made readily available.
- Greater policy recognition of the value of wetlands through open space credits for wetlands.
- Practical, cost effective drainage solutions which maximise social, economic and environmental benefits.