Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 9 Hansard (19 August) . . Page.. 3902..
MRS DUNNE (continuing):
effective way, which would have meant allowing them to build a residence so that they could be close to the animals that they kept and maintained for a variety of purposes in relation to their business, which was essentially a petting nursery which, before it essentially went under, used to travel from place to place-to fetes, to hospitals, to fundraisers and things like that-and introduce city kids to country concepts.
One of the really essential parts of this business was the animals as therapy side of it. Animals Afloat had established a very strong reputation with a number of children's welfare organisations and children's services for the services that it provided to children-often children in need, often children who had terminal illnesses-that gave a spark of joy and a spark of interaction that otherwise those children would not experience, that brought meaning and fulfilment into lives which were often very precarious. Much has been said about the usefulness and the effectiveness of pets and animals as therapy. This was part of that link, part of that process.
As a result of the obvious need that arose in the case of Animals Afloat, this Assembly in its wisdom passed a motion in April 2002 requiring the planning authorities and the minister to institute a variation to the territory plan that would change the use for the land that Animals Afloat currently occupied from urban open space to broadacre to allow them to be issued with a lease which would allow them to build a house on the site so that they could live in proximity to the animals they maintained.
Earlier in the week, I touched on the sorry story of what has happened since then and the absolutely minimal compliance by the minister in this matter that caused it to drag out for 21/2 years. Only in the dying days of this Assembly are we seeing this matter come to fruition. I know that the government and the minister did not like the motion and I think that since then the government-the minister in particular-has learnt more about how, if the Assembly says it wants something, it really means it. On subsequent occasions, the minister has been censured for his minimal compliance or lack of compliance with motions of the Assembly.
But that is all behind us now. We now have the draft variation. It has been ticked off by the planning and environment committee. The government has brought in its response in which it agrees that it should make the variation. By voting down my disallowance motion today, this Assembly will be saying that it wants this variation to take place. I am encouraging members to vote against my motion-I will be voting against it-so that we can finalise the matter and the piece of land occupied or leased by the owners of the former business Animals Afloat can gain a change to the territory plan.
That is where the really interesting stuff starts, because it means that the government will be able to issue a meaningful lease over this piece of land. As I touched on the other day, I still have concerns about the way in which this government might treat the leaseholders of this block of land. I want to put on the record-I hope that other members of this place who are interested in this matter will emulate me-the view, which is also expressed in the report of the planning and environment committee, that the government should deal fairly and openly and take into consideration the needs of the current leaseholders, that we should not have any more argy-bargy about who does and does not have a lease, because there is a lease, and that when a new lease is made available the current leaseholders should be given first option on that lease, as is the longstanding practice in this territory in relation to rural leases.