Page 1857 - Week 06 - Wednesday, 8 June 2022
cost of living pressures continue to rise, I appreciate that this motion comes from a genuine place of wanting to improve a government service, to make it more accessible so that we can address these environmental and health concerns without negatively imposing a financial burden on low income households especially.
People on low incomes just do not have the same opportunities to replace their wood heaters, especially the older-style ones. I appreciate that this motion is suggesting some ways to approach this and to alleviate this. For that reason, the Canberra Liberals will be supporting this motion today. Once again, I would like to thank Mr Davis for bringing it to the Assembly.
MS STEPHEN-SMITH (Kurrajong—Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Minister for Families and Community Services and Minister for Health) (4.07): I will speak briefly to Mr Davis’s motion and make a few remarks regarding air quality and my portfolio of health. I thank Mr Davis for bringing this motion to the Assembly and note, as Mr Davis’s motion does, that air quality in the ACT is considered excellent, compared with other Australian cities and by world standards. We are, as a government, committed to protecting people from poor air quality and acknowledge that clean air is something that Canberrans quite rightly expect.
As Mr Davis has outlined, we do experience days of poorer than average air quality during winter that can be attributed to wood fire smoke. In particular, there are localised events that can affect certain suburban areas. Ms Lawder just talked about one in particular. I recognise that the Tuggeranong Valley is the most affected part of the ACT and acknowledge Mr Davis’s advocacy for his constituents in this regard. These instances can be exacerbated by certain weather conditions and also, again as Mr Davis has talked about, by poor choices made by a small number of wood heater owners about the types of wood that they burn in particular.
The ACT government acknowledges, as Ms Davidson has talked about, the importance of making sustained progress to reduce the impact of these events on Canberrans. The ACT government is committed to enabling a healthy environment for all Canberrans and, as part of that, has released the whole-of-government ACT Bushfire Smoke and Air Quality Strategy 2021-2025, which outlines seven objectives, with the first action plan for the first two years released together with the strategy.
Four objectives under this strategy have actions for ACT Health, and I would like to briefly outline what is happening in relation to those. Objective 2 seeks to strengthen measures to address the air quality impact of wood heaters. The ACT is committed to investigating the utility and reliability of suburban air quality monitoring to collect data on the prevalence of wood smoke in suburban areas across Canberra. This involves a thorough examination of the technologies available and their suitability in determining air quality. This work has been underway for 12 months now.
Objective 3 focuses on enhancing air quality monitoring and forecasting. This work will investigate air quality forecasting systems and the feasibility of an ongoing low-cost air quality sensor network, connected with the previous objective.