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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 6 Hansard (14 June) . . Page.. 1754..


MR CORBELL (continuing):

Mr Smyth's amendment is an amendment the ALP will reluctantly support. Mr Smyth's proposal for the site, which is to protect only five hectares, is nonsensical and insincere. As Mr Smyth well knows, this area was going to be protected anyway as part of the original development proposal for the site. Mr Smyth well knows that back in 1993-94, when this development was first proposed, it had already been decided that the area he is proposing to protect would be urban open space. So he has not done anything new. He has just reinvented something which was always going to be there. It is insincere for him to claim that he is making some sort of compromise.

How logical is it to say that we will protect part of the site but then permit development in the rest of the site but in a way that still retains the trees, when we know that these trees are 200 to 400 years old and have the capacity to drop very large limbs? Are they the sorts of trees that we should be encouraging in a residential area? Would you provide for housing in close proximity to them? The answer is that you could not. We all know what residents of this potential subdivision would say when limbs started dropping. They would say, "This is a hazard to life on the property." And they would be right. So the trees would be removed, and Mr Smyth's purpose would be defeated. It is a nonsensical and insincere approach by this government.

It is important to reiterate what Mr Phillip Toyne said at the rally held earlier this year in relation to the need to protect the site. Mr Toyne said:

In circumstances like this, you are talking about something that is so rare and of such value that no compromise is possible.

It seems to me that these are the very circumstances in which governments are required to show leadership. They are required to say to developers and proponents of schemes around their jurisdiction, "some places are simply not available to you".

If there was a planning decision to make that area available for housing, it has to be reversed.

We now know too much to sacrifice this 20 hectares for a housing development that could be [built] somewhere else.

They are not my words but the words of Phillip Toyne, a leading environmentalist in Australia, a well-respected, authoritative and reasonable man who understands the very dire circumstances faced by ecological communities such as the one at north Watson. That is why the Labor Party argues that the site should be protected in its entirety as a woodland area.

There are opportunities for development. Development can occur on the lower part of the north Watson area, where there are no significant trees, where it is simply degraded grassland, where it is simply, as Mr Rugendyke put it, a paddock. That is a reasonable site for development. But to leave open the option of saying that part of this woodland site can be used for residential development is not, in our minds, acceptable. It is not acceptable when you realise that there is only 5 per cent of this forest type left in the world and that only 0.3 per cent of it is protected in reserve. It is not acceptable to say that we should compromise when 95 per cent of this forest type has gone forever. When do we say, "Enough compromising"? That is the question we should be asking ourselves today.


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