Page 2938 - Week 09 - Wednesday, 12 October 2022

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MS VASSAROTTI: Thanks very much for the question. The survey and social research have been really important in understanding more about what we know is a complex and quite split issue. It is another instance where we can ask the community and get more consultation to assist us as we move towards a second action plan under our air quality strategy.

In relation to the recent YourSay panel survey, we had 1,955 responses submitted during the open period of the wood-fired heater survey. I understand that that is one of the highest responses of any survey outside of the COVID-19 questionnaire. The survey captured a vast range of ages, with the panel being open to Canberrans over the age of 16. Overall, survey respondents were considered very reflective of the Canberra community in relation to gender, age, housing composition and geographic location.

This is a contentious issue, with the community quite split on what to do. Fifty-two per cent of the respondents supported a gradual phase-out of wood heaters over all of Canberra, with 27 opposing it. Nineteen per cent did not have a view either way. Having said that, amongst those who oppose the phase-out, four out of 10 are open to removing heaters that do not meet emissions standards. Approximately one in 10 respondents currently have a wood fire or heater in their home, which is higher than the general population. The highest penetration was in Weston Creek, followed by the Molonglo Valley and Tuggeranong, where we know there is a problem with air quality. The presence of a wood heater is related to home ownership and increases with age.

MS CLAY: Minister, what other work is the ACT government doing to improve and protect air quality?

MS VASSAROTTI: As people would know, we are working through the air quality strategy at the moment. That is continuing to phase out all the dirty wood-fired heaters, under the action plan, and ban the installation of old, dirty wood heaters that are sometimes over 20 times more polluting. I know, Ms Clay, that you do like a circular economy, but this is one area where we really do not want to be seeing the use of second-hand wood-fired heaters.

A strong message that came out of the YourSay community panel was the importance of air quality monitoring, with half of Canberrans saying that the ACT government should be doing more to monitor air quality. This is part of the bushfire smoke and air quality strategy. I am really looking forward to being briefed, with Minister Stephen-Smith, by Health officials on the progress of a trial for low cost sensors that is coming soon.

Minister Gentleman is also working on some of the forecasting on bushfires coming out of the recommendations of the royal commission. I am also really heartened and interested to see that Dr Sophie Lewis, the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment, will be conducting further investigations into wood fires in the ACT. That will add more evidence to the discussion that we are having with the community.

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