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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 10 Hansard (23 September) . . Page.. 3541..


Bushfire season-preparations

MS TUCKER: My question is to Jon Stanhope as Minister for Environment. It concerns the social impact of the preparations for this year's bushfire season and, in particular, how this has been highlighted by the proposed removal of all the blue gums from Oakey Hill in Lyons.

The decision to take out all those trees came as a big surprise to residents of Lyons. While some residents became aware that something was going to happen, there was no general advice that all the blue gums were to be removed; nor was there any mention of Oakey Hill in the August or September issues of the recovery task force's community update. Through my work with the residents of Lyons, I know that most residents are aware that blue gums drop a lot of litter. A petition was sent to the government asking for some hazard reduction activity on the hill, but they were not asking for every single blue gum to be removed.

The community reaction to that inspired in your government, in your absence, a commitment to produce both a written report of the fire expert, who was brought up after the initial community reaction, and a communication strategy to avoid this happening in relation to future hazard reduction-hazard reduction generally-that has been planned for a number of areas you have listed.

Will you table in this place, by the end of the week, the written report from the Victorian expert and also your communication strategy, to reassure us that the community will be brought into the process more than has happened at Lyons? Because there was an understanding that there needed to be removal of trees, they were open to having a discussion but they felt shut out. That is a real issue.

MR STANHOPE: I am aware of the debate, Ms Tucker. As you indicate, I was not in Canberra at the time of the debate or when the issue arose. I am not aware of the details of some of the issues that were raised, although I have been briefed on them. I am aware of the concerns that you mention that have been raised by some residents-that they felt somewhat taken by surprise by some of the decisions that were announced-and Environment ACT is also acutely aware of them.

As indicated by the undertakings made in relation to a communication strategy, we have determined to address the significant issues of hazard reduction measures, particularly those taken on the urban edge and those affecting stands of trees that residents have become accustomed to-indeed, more than become accustomed to; attached to.

There are some significant issues for us as a community to address, and I have no difficulty at all, Ms Tucker, in taking advice on the documents that you seek to have tabled. I have no issue about tabling them, but I do need to take some advice from the department on what exactly is available. I am afraid I do not know in detail or explicitly, but I am more than happy to provide that information. I need to take some advice from the department on exactly what it is that they have and the nature and status of it. I will provide you with all the information that should be publicly available.


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