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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Watering down FOI

Water use is a hot topic these days in Australia.

The Daily Telegraph in "Water use hike in top firms" struck out in trying to obtain information under FOI about the names of the largest non residential water users in Sydney, but had enough to disclose that more than half of the biggest users have increased water use in the last 3 years, and use by the biggest Sydney Water customer went up by 5%.

No names, no pack drill seems to be the current position in NSW.

In Victoria, The Age had a similar experience, but shortly thereafter the Victorian Water Minister introduced legislation into the State Parliament on 3 October to allow the top industrial water users to be identified - water authorities will be required to publish a list of top water users in their annual reports from next year. However the list will not be in order of water use.

Given the scarcity of water, and the widespread recognition that it is a public resource, some including The Sunday Age Science Reporter ("Wishy-washy Bracks") suggest that naming and shaming water wasters (not necessarily the largest users) has potential to assist the situation.

Its another example where proactive disclosure of information makes sense. It should'nt be left to a battle between an FOI applicant and each water authority.

There is nothing in the NSW Minister's comments reported in the Daily Telegraph article to suggest that NSW is following even the Victorian lead.

It surely lends itself to a uniform approach by all water authorities.

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