Page 1858 - Week 06 - Wednesday, 8 June 2022

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Objective 6 aims to support the health and wellbeing of Canberrans who are affected by bushfire and wood fire smoke. The ACT Health Directorate is working to continually improve public health messaging to ensure that clear and consistent information is available to Canberrans during severe bushfire smoke and hazardous air quality events. Information will also be available to the community on ways to reduce the amount of smoke entering buildings. We know that during the bushfire smoke event that we experienced there was lots of advice going around about that.

Objective 7 seeks to provide targeted support to vulnerable populations and workers during severe air pollution events. Work on actions under this objective involves a number of parts of the government. There is a commitment to undertaking a detailed review to ensure that information regarding vulnerable people can be appropriately accessed, provided and used during an emergency event. These objectives of course will be reported on at the end of the current action plan, through whole-of-government reporting, as outlined in the strategy.

Briefly, Mr Deputy Speaker, I would like to expand on information I provided in question time during the May sitting on the air quality monitoring aspect. The standard for air quality is set by the National Environment Protection (Ambient Air Quality) Measure. The ACT Health Directorate monitors air quality in the ACT through three air quality stations, located at Civic, Florey and Monash, to evaluate our performance against these national standards.

In 2021 there were two instances in Monash where wood smoke resulted in Canberra not meeting the pollution standard. Currently, as of the end of May 2022, there have been no days identified where air quality pollution levels have risen above the concentrations set out by the standard. I recognise that this is in one particular location in Monash that this monitoring is taking place.

As part of objective 2 and 3 of the strategy, the Health Directorate and the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate work closely together to ensure that government policy is informed by the evidence that we are seeing. The work being undertaken by the directorate to collect suburban air quality data will be important in ensuring that we continue to meet the needs of our community. Collection of this data will enable us to identify how wood smoke impacts Canberra suburbs, which suburbs are most affected and the degree to which the air quality is affected. Taking an evidence-based approach will allow the government to make informed decisions and take targeted steps to improve on current wood heater programs and incentives.

As the Minister for Health, I will continue to work with my colleagues, in particular the Minister for the Environment, Minister Vassarotti—and I again thank her for the leadership that she has shown in this area in taking real responsibility for this work—and the Health Directorate will continue to support improvements in our already outstanding air quality, most of the year in most parts of Canberra, to ensure that every Canberran can take advantage of our beautiful environment. The work currently underway across the ACT will further our work to improve the health and wellbeing of all Canberrans more broadly.

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