Garden jobs go down the drain
24 July 2003 - HUNDREDS of gardening jobs are expected to be lost because of tough new water restrictions to hit Melbourne.
From August 1, bans on watering private lawns and most sports grounds head a list of new measures to be added to existing restrictions. Environment Minister John Thwaites said there was no chance of avoiding stage-two restrictions, despite yesterday's rain helping keep water storage levels above the 40 per cent trigger point for July.
"The August trigger for stage-two restrictions is 42 per cent and there is no realistic likelihood that water storages will rise to this level,"Mr Thwaites said.
Exemptions for major sporting venues meant events such as the AFL and the spring racing carnival would not be affected.
The new bans come after the driest 12 months in Melbourne since records began in 1855 have left water storages at their lowest in 18 years.
The bans are expected to remain in place for at least seven months.
Water retailer spokesman Dennis Cavagna said several hundred jobs were expected to be lost in the turf, landscaping and nursery industries.
Municipal Association of Victoria president Brad Matheson said bans on watering local sports grounds would see some facilities closed if their surfaces became unsafe.
Cr Matheson said lawns and gardens in public parks could still be watered at set times.
Opposition Leader Robert Doyle said the new restrictions should have been introduced six to eight months ago.
"I think the public of Victoria would have understood that, they would have accepted it, and we could have conserved more of this precious resource."
Mr Thwaites denied the Government had been slow to act, saying the trigger points had been set on expert advice.
"It is appropriate, given that jobs are at stake, that we stick to the rules and we don't try to change them on a whim,"he said.
Mr Thwaites said compensation had not been offered to affected businesses but to soften the blow for grass growers, people putting in instant turf would be able to apply until September 15 for a six-week exemption from the ban on watering lawns.
"Turf growers will need to diversify because there will be less demand for the turf when the stage-two restrictions are fully in place,"he said.
Turf Producers Australia spokesman Adam Richards said although the exemption would potentially save hundreds of jobs, the $100 million industry could not be certain of a viable future and would seek further discussions with Government on long-term solutions.
Penalties for breaching restrictions include fines of up to $2000 and three months' jail for a first offence or up to $4000 fine and six months' jail for a second.
By PETER MICKELBUROUGH, state politics reporter
Tougher curbs on the way - The Age
Brown lawns and rock-hard sportsgrounds could become a feature of Melbourne after the State Government yesterday warned stage two water restrictions were likely to remain until at least autumn next year.
John Thwaites, the minister responsible for water, yesterday said the latest restrictions would be introduced from August 1.
He said they were necessary because the city's water storages were at 40.1 per cent of capacity - the lowest level in 18 years. Level one restrictions have been in place since November.
"The August trigger for stage two restrictions is 42 per cent and there is no realistic likelihood that water storages will rise to this level,"Mr Thwaites said.
Melbourne received a drenching yesterday and the city's major catchment areas, around the Thomson, Upper Yarra, Maroondah and O'Shannessy dams, received about 20 millimetres from 9am to 6pm.
Rain has been forecast for the next few days, but Melbourne Water said catchment areas needed significantly above-average falls to reach 42 per cent by August. This was unlikely.
Under stage two restrictions, watering of private lawns and sporting grounds is banned. Councils, schools and sporting clubs have been warned that some playing fields could be closed if their surfaces become hard and unsafe.
Major sport venues such as the MCG, Telstra Dome and horseracing tracks are exempt.
Vehicles can be washed only with a bucket of water or a high-pressure cleaning unit that uses less water. Commercial car washes can operate provided they recycle water or use high-pressure devices. Written approval will be required from local water authorities to to fill pools or spas but savings must be made elsewhere in the home.
The tougher measures are expected to result in the loss of jobs in Melbourne's turf-growing and nursery industries, which will be prevented from watering much of their stock.
Mr Thwaites ruled out compensation for those affected but said buyers of instant turf would be eligible for a six-week exemption from the bans to establish their turf.
Garden beds and lawns in public parks such as the Royal Botanic Gardens can be watered at specific times of the day.
National Party leader Peter Ryan said the trigger levels dictating the enforcement of restrictions were ridiculous and called on the Government to review the way water bans were introduced.
Given that there were more than 100 towns in country Victoria on various forms of restrictions, Mr Ryan said it was inappropriate for Melburnians to have been able to water their lawns for so long.
Mr Thwaites defended the water-restriction policy, saying it was based on expert advice and should not be changed "on a political whim". Stage two restrictions are expected to achieve a 5 per cent saving in water consumption over a 12-month period.
This is in addition to the 10 per cent reduction in water use over summer brought about by the stage one measures.
Tougher curbs on the way
July 24 2003
By Richard Baker
State Political Reporter
Tougher water rules on brink
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