Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 9 Hansard (24 August) . .
That this bill be agreed to in principle.
Today I present the Tree Protection Amendment Bill 2017 to the Legislative Assembly. The bill makes changes to the Tree Protection Act 2005 about decisions in relation to registered trees. The bill provides the Conservator of Flora and Fauna with discretion to deregister a registered tree that has died from natural causes. The bill also clarifies who has access to merits review of certain decisions made by the Conservator of Flora and Fauna.
For members not familiar with the Tree Protection Act, the act, amongst other things, protects Canberra's urban forest and the urban forest value from the risk of unnecessary loss or degradation. Urban forest value refers to the amenity, economic and environmental benefits derived from the urban forest and the associated tree canopy. The act also protects the urban forest values that contribute to the heritage significance of an area and ensures that trees of value are protected during periods of construction activity. Further, it encourages the incorporation of these trees of significance and value into the design and planning of development.
As part of the territory's scheme of tree protection, in addition to trees of a particular size being protected under the act, specific trees can be included in a register for additional protection. Anyone can nominate a tree for registration. Decisions about registration, and indeed deregistration, are made by the conservator following extensive consultation as provided for under the act.
The conservator applies statutory approval criteria when making his or her decision about registration. The criteria include reference to the natural or cultural heritage value of the tree, the landscape and aesthetic value and the scientific value of the tree. The natural or cultural heritage value of the tree covers, for example, where a tree may be associated with Aboriginal heritage and culture or is representative of a heritage nominated place and a historical period. The landscape and aesthetic value, for example, might cover circumstances where a tree is situated in a prominent location when viewed from a public place. The scientific value recognises, for example, a tree species that is endangered or otherwise vulnerable.
To register or to deregister a tree is a reasonably lengthy process that involves significant consultation under the act. Although a registered tree which has died from natural causes can be viewed as not fulfilling the criteria for registration, having, for example, no urban forest value, there is no legislative mechanism for removing the tree from the register without potentially following a significant consultation process as outlined under the act.
The bill that I present today proposes a new division 7.4 of the Tree Protection Act. Under the division new section 61B of the act will provide the conservator with the discretion to remove the registration of a tree that has died from natural causes and provide written notice of that decision to relevant people. The decision can be made without following the full consultation process that would normally apply to the cancellation of the registration of a tree. This regulatory reform will remove unnecessary processes and red tape. The conservator is not precluded, however, from
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