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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 11 Hansard (25 October) . . Page.. 4238 ..


As Minister Steel said, trees are really important to Canberra in terms of ameliorating our summer temperature and also our winter temperature. In the summer, the difference in temperature between pavements in the sun and in the shade can be over 12 degrees, and in the winter the trees can help keep us warm by stopping the really biting winds. Trees are a carbon sink, and removing trees releases greenhouse gases. I talked in my adjournment speech yesterday about how important it is to take immediate action on climate change, and this is one of the small things we could do.

Minister Steel gave us some very interesting statistics. We have 766,000 trees in our urban forest but only 608 were planted over the winter season. I did a quick check and that is around 0.08 per cent of our forest, which has to be less than the death rate of existing trees. On the basis of Minister Steel's comments, it does not look like we are even keeping up with maintaining and preserving our current urban forest.

This is particularly relevant because, as we all observe, older suburbs are losing their trees through redevelopment. In new suburbs existing trees are cleared, houses are built and in many cases there is no space for any new trees. Our older trees of course are also under threat from not only old age but drought. As we know, the ACT is in drought and in the part of Woden where I live you can see quite a lot of very old eucalyptus which are either dying or have died already. We need to take strong action on trees now.

As I said, I am pleased the action has started. The living infrastructure plan my colleague Minister Rattenbury is working on will obviously be a critical part of this work. It is going to set the canopy targets, which is one of the things the reviews need to know what they are aiming for. In this context it was great to see that citizens, in the better suburbs statement, went for a 30 per cent canopy target. That would appear to be over all the urban areas of the ACT.

I am very pleased also to hear that work has started on the Tree Protection Act review, but I am a little more concerned about the Territory Plan element. I am concerned that having this as part of the broader review of the Territory Plan has considerable risks. I have heard Mr Ponton, the director-general, say on numerous occasions that the Territory Plan is going to be a one-page document. We probably need at least one page just on trees, so I am a little concerned about that. I am also concerned about timing. My motion specified completion by this time next year, and the last Territory Plan overhaul took many years. We do not have many years to improve how we look after trees in the ACT.

Thank you, Minister Steel, for your report. I look forward to more and accelerating work on this in the future.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Royal Commission Criminal Justice Legislation Amendment Bill 2018

Mr Ramsay, pursuant to notice, presented the bill, its explanatory statement and a Human Rights Act compatibility statement.


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