QUESTION: Removal of mandatory rainwater tank connection requirement

During question time, Mark asked the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, representing the Treasurer, about the impact of removing the mandatory requirement for rainwater tank connection at new residential properties.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: For the last 13 years, South Australia — the driest state in the driest continent — has had rules requiring new homes to be fitted with rainwater tanks that are plumbed into the toilet or the laundry. For the last three weeks speculation has been rife about whether this requirement will be removed, supposedly at the request of the Master Builders Association. The Treasurer is quoted in a number of media outlets as saying he is considering the move.

On the other hand, Irrigation Australia and other groups representing the rainwater harvesting industry, have said that removing mandatory rainwater tanks will not significantly affect the price of new homes and that it will simply shift more costs onto householders through increased water bills and onto local government and the environment through increased stormwater infrastructure costs. They claim that this was the effect of a similar rule change in Queensland some years ago.

The industry also claims that up to 650 jobs could be lost if mandatory rainwater tank rules are abolished. They point out that nearly all rainwater tanks used in South Australia are manufactured locally here in South Australia. Lastly, the government's own Green Adelaide initiative incorporates the principles of water-sensitive urban design. This is depicted on the government's website in a logo showing rain falling on a home roof and running into a rainwater tank.

My questions to the Treasurer are:

1. What modelling has the government done to show the likely impact of such a rule change on household budgets and local council infrastructure?

2. How would such a rule change be consistent with the Government's professed commitment to the principles of water-sensitive urban design?

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment): I thank the honourable member for his questions. He has always had a strong interest in rainwater and rainwater tanks. I will take the question on notice and refer it to my hardworking colleague, the Hon. Rob Lucas, Treasurer of the State.

Response received on July 31, 2019

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment): The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Local Government has provided the following advice:

1. Since 2006, new houses (and some extensions) in South Australia have been required to have an additional water supply in the form of a 1,000-litre tank plumbed to at least one sanitary fixture to supplement mains water.

These requirements are applied through the National Construction Code (NCC) and were introduced as a sustainability measure during a period where prolonged drought posed a threat to the state's urban water supply.

The new Planning and Design Code (the code), phase 1 of which was adopted on 1 July 2019, has a significant role to play in this regard, given it will be the single source of planning policy for assessing development applications across the state.

No specific modelling has been done to date, however, in the developing of phases 2 (regional areas) and 3 (Greater Adelaide) of the code, a range of measures to deal with both stormwater issues and environmental sustainability measures will be investigated, including water-sensitive urban design measures. Each alternative would be subject to a wide cost-benefit analysis, testing and consultation.

This process would also consider the potential costs that may fall to ratepayers if local government were required to upgrade infrastructure to accommodate increased stormwater flows and the management of local flood risks.

In summary, there is no intention to amend the NCC requirement for plumbed rainwater tanks until an evidence base for the ongoing management and reuse of water is gathered on the costs and benefits to ratepayers. The evidence base will be gathered as part of the development of phases 2 and 3 of the state-wide code, which will be a staged approach to consider and refine the existing policies within the South Australian Planning Policy Library.

2. For a number of reasons it's timely to reconsider both state and local policies relating to rainwater tank use. These include the need to encourage water reuse and manage stormwater flows.

Any such changes would be consistent with the state's move to the new natural resources management model—Green Adelaide—for the metropolitan area.