Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 6 Hansard (15 June) . . Page.. 1863..
MR SMYTH: Again, Mr Speaker, that was verbal advice. I have no written advice that I can table.
Namadgi national park
MS TUCKER: My question is to the Minister for Urban Services in his role as having responsibility for environmental management in the ACT. Minister, on 26 May articles appeared in the media regarding the clearing of a 35 kilometre strip of native vegetation under power lines across the Kosciuszko National Park, Brindabella National Park, Namadgi National Park and the Bago State Forest. This included some 10 kilometres in the ACT. Once this became public knowledge your government and the New South Wales government condemned this action and called for legal action to be taken against Transgrid and its contractor. It has since come to light that this clearing happened over several weeks in February and March this year, and that no-one in authority seemed to do anything about it at the time. It was only after the story came out in the media that the issue received priority.
It is also the case that this area is not so isolated as was originally claimed. The power lines run close to the Blue Range mountain bike track, and cyclists have told us that they observed the clearing back in February. The power lines also run close to the Brindabella Road, so anyone driving up to Piccadilly Circus and Mount Franklin would have seen the clearing. We understand that at least one ranger saw the clearing back in February, but there appeared to be an assumption made that the clearing was authorised.
Could you explain, minister, what breakdown in regulatory responsibilities occurred which allowed this clearing to occur under the noses of Environment ACT officials, and why swift action was not taken at the time?
MR SMYTH: Mr Speaker, when the clearing was brought to the attention of Environment ACT action was taken immediately. It came to the attention of the department in late February. There was a lack of clarity as to whether or not federal or territory regulations applied in this case. Legal advice was sought. As soon as it was confirmed that it was in the jurisdiction of the ACT, action was taken.
MR SPEAKER: Do you have a supplementary question?
MS TUCKER: I understand that the New South Wales parliament is intending to establish an inquiry into the Transgrid clearing. Will you be fully cooperating with this inquiry or any other actions of the New South Wales government? Will you also be inquiring into why it was that there was confusion within your own department about whose responsibility it was?
MR SMYTH: Mr Speaker, there was no confusion inside the department about what might happen. What they had to confirm, though, was under which act the action might be taken-whether it was a Commonwealth responsibility or whether it was a territory responsibility. Once it was determined that it was a territory responsibility we did what we have to do. We have written letters to Transgrid. We have asked them to make amends to rectify the situation. Due process will then be followed to see what