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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 06 Hansard (Thursday, 3 June 2021) . . Page.. 1728 ..

I can only agree with Dr Paterson that Canberra is too often lazily defined and stereotyped as nothing more than the seat of federal parliament. I know that many of us are frustrated that a few hundred often badly behaved FIFO workers are wrongly seen as representing our community. Being the nation’s capital is important, but it is not all of who we are.

I am delighted by Ms Castley’s interest in our local heritage and look forward to seeing her at next year’s Heritage Festival. This motion is not about ignoring our role as the nation’s capital; it is about complementing this role and showing how much more we are. We all know that Canberra is much more than just the nation’s capital. In many ways, we have been one of Australia’s best kept secrets and, over time, we are increasingly putting ourselves on the map. Our longstanding status as one of the most livable cities is testament to that fact.

As our city continues to grow, we need to increase our focus on the conservation of our natural heritage to build our collective resilience as we face the ongoing threats of introduced plants and animals and the effects of a changing climate, such as more extreme weather events and, as we have recently seen, the very real risk of global pandemics.

Rather than showing that the government is out of touch, we know that nature is the foundation of much of our wellbeing. Access to green spaces and biodiversity is proven to reduce stress and mental illness, increase relaxation and increase the number of people exercising. Our low crime rate in Canberra most likely comes, in part, from our green surrounds. Studies have shown that daily access to nature does reduce crime.

The goal of the National Park City Foundation is that cities that embrace this status are fundamentally places that make life better for people and wildlife. That statement simply and powerfully reflects our goals for Canberra. I welcome the opportunity to explore the benefits of becoming a national park city.

MR STEEL (Murrumbidgee—Minister for Skills, Minister for Transport and City Services and Special Minister of State) (3.39): I thank Dr Paterson for her motion today. The national park cities universal charter highlights that park cities are those where people, places and nature are better connected. The charter provides a vision of such cities that closely aligns with the things that we know Canberrans value—cities that are rich with nature and where everyone benefits from exploring, playing and learning outdoors; cities where we all enjoy high quality public and green spaces, where the air is clean to breathe. As Minister Vassarotti mentioned, there could not be a better description of Canberra and what the vision of national park cities is seeking to achieve.

Canberra is well placed to become recognised as a national park city, highlighting the opportunities to ensure that we become an even more livable and sustainable city and be known for that.

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