Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 7 Hansard (18 June) . . Page.. 2595..
MRS DUNNE (continuing):
I am not a great fan of banning things if you can possibly avoid it and perhaps imposing considerable costs on people who do not have the means or the desire to change the way they heat their house. We really should be encouraging people and educating people how best to heat their house with their solid wood heaters, rather than banning them.
I thank Ms Le Couteur for bringing this matter forward. I am conscious of the issues that this raises in the community, and there are many ways that we can progress and improve our environment even more than it is before we get to the stage of taking draconian measures to perhaps outlaw the burning of wood for heating in the ACT.
MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Minister for Transport, Minister for Territory and Municipal Services, Minister for Business and Economic Development, Minister for Indigenous Affairs and Minister for the Arts and Heritage) (3.42): I, too, thank Ms Le Couteur for proposing this matter of public importance in the Assembly today. The issue of air quality in the Tuggeranong Valley is not a new one, as members have obviously said. The variables that contribute to the air quality are well known, and this government and previous governments have worked with the community for over a decade to seek to minimise those adverse impacts. There is some evidence that indicates that air quality in the Tuggeranong Valley has improved over the past few years, despite population increases.
As we examine this matter, we do need to acknowledge that Canberra's overall air quality, compared to other cities, is excellent, and tourists to this city often comment on the beautiful clear days and smog-free environment that our capital possesses. I must say that the most frequent comments I receive from visitors, particularly international visitors, are on our beautiful city, our clear blue sky and our beautiful air.
That said, in winter on cold nights when the air is still, Canberra, and most particularly the Tuggeranong Valley, does experience a particle pollution problem, due principally to emissions from domestic wood heaters. The government acknowledges this problem and is continually improving the measures it is taking to address the issue to ensure a satisfactory outcome for all Canberrans.
I will just set some background for the Assembly on the matter of air quality. In June 1998, environment ministers agreed on a national environment protection measure for ambient air quality. This set a target for ambient air quality that allows for the protection of human health and wellbeing. The measure covers common pollutants such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, sulphur dioxide, lead, and particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter less than 10 microns, or what is described by technicians as PM10.
In Canberra, as I said, we live in a city with clean air. We do not experience any concerns with these pollutants, except for particulate matter. Of concern for residents of Canberra, and most particularly the Tuggeranong Valley, is wood smoke which emits fine particles at a level of PM2.5, which are known to produce respiratory and cardiovascular illness.