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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 3 Hansard (11 March) . . Page.. 869..


MR WOOD: Mr Speaker, if Mr Pratt had paid attention during the last budget, he would have been aware of the increase in funding that we gave to policing, and the increase in police numbers as a result of that, as we move towards achieving our commitment.

Bushfires-salvage of timber

MR HARGREAVES

: Mr Speaker, my question is to the minister for urban services, Mr Wood. Minister, are you aware that ACT Forests has only two contractors working to harvest the trees burnt during the bushfires? Is the minister also aware that there is a limited time to harvest these logs before they dry out and become unusable?

Minister, as ACT Forests lost two-thirds of its plantation estate during the bushfires, will the existing arrangements be able to cope with the massive harvesting task, or will precious timber and financial return be lost to the territory?

MR WOOD

: Mr Speaker, the answer to the first two parts of the question is yes, but I will elaborate just a little. We are much aware of this. It is vitally important that ACT Forests salvage as much of the valuable burnt timber as possible. I think members would have been switched into the debate which made clear the need to do that rapidly. There is a limited time-something like three to six months-to harvest the burnt logs before the wood dries out. It can be affected by fungus. At that stage, there is no point in harvesting it.

Two-thirds of the forest gone is a tremendous blow. Notwithstanding all the damage and, in many circumstances, the personal losses of some of our forestry people, ACT Forests immediately began a salvage operation, to harvest as much of the commercial timber as possible. There are generally two contractors-that is what the system has required in the past. It is a measure of the spirit, I suppose, amongst foresters and companies which employ them that there has been enormous assistance from nearby to help in the harvesting operation.

ACT Forests now have a three-way partnership with State Forests of NSW and a local firm-South Forestry-to ensure that as much of the burnt timber as possible is harvested. State Forests of NSW and South Forestry have stopped operations in their own plantations and sent their harvesting contractors to the ACT. That is a very good effort to have made. You cannot simply open the Yellow Pages and get a harvesting contractor with machines worth up to $1 million. So, thanks to this good relationship, we have an additional six harvesting contractors to assist with the salvage operation. You can do your maths-that is triple our capacity. We believe that, through this, we will be able to recoup the maximum amount of timber possible.

MR HARGREAVES

: Mr Speaker, I thank the minister for the answer. I have a supplementary question. In addition to the arrangements made for harvesting the burnt timber, have any arrangements been made to find markets for the salvaged timber?

MR WOOD

: That is important. We need to get the timber processed as quickly as possible. Under the partnership, State Forests of NSW will effectively sell some of the burnt logs into its markets in New South Wales and Victoria. Once the salvage


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