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Australia : Milestone in water industry reforms.

Draft legislation aimed at promoting greater efficiency, competition, and innovation in South Australia s water industry has been tabled in State Parliament. Consultation on the draft Water Industry (Third Party Access) Amendment Bill will now begin, with submissions welcome from all interested parties.

Water Minister Ian Hunter says the draft Bill is a further step in the continuing reform of the State s water industry which began with the passage of the Water Industry Act last year. The Act appointed the Essential Services Commission of South Australia as the independent industry regulator, and to ensure customer rights are protected, the Act also appointed an independent Water Industry Ombudsman and a Consumer Advisory Committee, he says. The Act also committed the Government to the establishment of a state-based third party access regime for water and sewerage infrastructure.

Current arrangements allow those wanting access to SA Water s infrastructure can negotiate with SA Water on a commercial basis. The draft Bill formalises those arrangements, and provides a regulatory framework that would apply to all South Australian water industry entities. It s expected the new access regime will initially only fully apply to SA Water s bulk water transport infrastructure.

The access regime proposed in the draft Bill adopts an approach which enables parties to negotiate access in good faith and without the direct involvement of the regulator. This approach also provides arbitration if the negotiations break down. There are mechanisms built into the proposed regime so that as the water industry develops and demand for access grows, the access regime can be reviewed and adjusted. Minister Hunter says it s essential that third party access to SA Water s infrastructure does not compromise public health, the environment, and safety standards. The draft Bill explicitly states access can t be granted in situations not consistent with an existing law or legislative requirement relating to health, environment, and safety, he says. Further, parties negotiating access must accept any advice provided by the government departments that administer health, environment, and safety legislation.

ESCOSA would be appointed as regulator for the access regime. It will monitor and report to the Minister for Water on its work in regard to access regime, as well as any conciliation and arbitration appointments in the event of a dispute. ESCOSA would also conduct a five-yearly review of the access regime.

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Publication:Mena Report
Date:Sep 27, 2013
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