Page 2001 - Week 06 - Thursday, 9 June 2022

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Last year Minister Chris Steel released the urban forest strategy, which outlines a vision to promote “an urban forest that is resilient and sustainable and contributes to the wellbeing of the community in a changing climate”. The strategy was influenced by the values and priorities of the Canberra community. It set out six objectives: to protect the urban forest; grow a resilient forest; balance and diversify the urban forest; take an ecological approach and support biodiversity; develop infrastructure to support the urban forest and liveability; and partner with the community. This work is taking place amid challenges which include supporting our species diversity, an ageing tree population, more frequent and extreme weather events, and the urban heat island effect.

This planting activity that has been going on and the government’s plan to deliver another 38,000 new trees over the next two years show that we are on the right track to grow Canberra’s urban canopy coverage by 30 per cent by 2045. This is a big target, and the government recognises the importance of working in partnership with the Canberra community to achieve it. During this week’s Tree Week, Minister Steel announced that Canberra has been recognised as a “tree city of the world”. This means we have joined over 130 like-minded communities that have recognised the importance of nurturing a well thought out and resourced plan to protect nature within our cities.

The ACT’s new urban forest bill will play a big role in this plan. The proposals in that bill will help to protect and grow our tree canopy to reduce the urban heat island effect, address the impacts of climate change and retain the leafy character of Canberra. The proposals in the bill will also disincentivise property developers from removing or damaging trees, and encourage more sustainable building design and practices. A draft of this bill has been out for consultation for the past six weeks. Stakeholders from a wide range of industries, as well as Canberra home owners, have taken part in that consultation. Along with Minister Steel, I am looking forward to seeing what both the aggregated and detailed feedback from this process has been.

The next step is for the government to finalise the bill, taking all of the feedback into account. Once they have done that, it is anticipated that it will be introduced into the Assembly later in the year, to enable the government to get on with strengthening the protections for Canberra’s trees and putting in place the right incentives to see them maintained or replaced if they are approved for removal.

In closing, I would like to join with Minister Vassarotti in emphasising our government’s strong agenda to strengthen Canberra’s biodiversity and protect our great green and open spaces. The government is taking practical steps to plant more trees, protect existing ones and manage urban open spaces better. These actions will help us to make our city more resilient to the changing climate, protect community wellbeing and ensure that the greenery that Canberra is known for continues to be a leading feature of this city in the years and decades to come.

MS VASSAROTTI (Kurrajong—Minister for the Environment, Minister for Heritage, Minister for Homelessness and Housing Services and Minister for Sustainable Building and Construction) (5.22), in reply: I would like to thank

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