Page 1024 - Week 03 - Thursday, 30 March 2023

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Detail stage

Bill, by leave, taken as a whole.

MR STEEL (Murrumbidgee—Minister for Skills, Minister for Transport and City Services and Special Minister of State) (5.41), by leave: I move amendments Nos 1 to 51 circulated in my name together, and table a supplementary and revised explanatory statement to the government amendments to the bill [see schedule 1 at page 1031].

The amendments that I have moved will further enhance the Urban Forest Bill and respond to recommendations made by the scrutiny committee and in the report on the inquiry into the bill. I will detail the proposed amendments, which will change the commencement date; refine the provisions relating to tree management plans, notifications under urgent circumstances, power of entry, exceptions to tree-damaging offences; and create subordinate legislation.

The proposed government amendments will result in the bill commencing on 1 January 2024, as opposed to 1 June 2023. The revised commencement date addressed feedback from the inquiry report by providing additional time for the government to work with the community and industry to raise awareness of what is changing under the new legislation and how it affects residents and businesses, and that is something that we heard through the inquiry was important. But it will also support the ACT government to prepare a seamless implementation of the bill with delivery of critical software systems, finalisation of new procedures and engagement materials, and to prepare the workforce successfully to administer the bill and the changes.

Under these amendments, utilities exemptions will be restored to align with the Tree Protection Act 2005. Utility services will be permitted to conduct standard works that impact regulated and public trees and will be permitted to conduct critical works that impact registered and remnant trees where necessary to protect life, property or the environment. The changes to utilities exemptions will streamline utility works while protecting our most valuable trees. This will balance the needs of utility and living infrastructure, both of which provide important services to the Canberra community.

Tree management plans will be able to be created for any protected tree and be proposed by anyone under these amendments. Plans will be assessed by the decision-maker and plans for a tree on leased land will require proof that the tree owner is aware. The changes to tree management plans will standardise decision-making and allow for anyone working near a tree to propose protection measures.

Under these amendments, the decision-maker will be required to notify applicants of urgent circumstances or minor works approvals as soon as practicable. It is the current and intended process that decisions on urgent circumstances applications be notified to the applicant as soon as practicable. However, this amendment ensures that the legislation reflects this process.

Authorised persons will be permitted to enter premises under specified conditions to issue or fulfil the overdue works required under a tree reparation direction.

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