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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 14 Hansard (11 December) . . Page.. 5271..


MR CORBELL (continuing):

As I previously informed the Assembly, the ACT chapter of the Planning Institute of Australia recently bestowed the award for planning excellence in community-based planning to the Neighbourhood Planning Program and recommended it for a national award in the same category. Like any professional institute, these awards are given by peers who do not take their job lightly. In doing so, they noted that the consultation process and associated plan specifically address key planning principles which are established and then applied to a process of collaborative community consultation which has evolved and been improved since its inception and in response to communities. While the concept of engaging communities is not new to the profession of urban planning, the range of techniques applied in this case is considered to be an innovative approach to community planning. The judges considered that in this case the process sets an example for encouraging genuine community participation in planning.

Environment-management

Discussion of matter of public importance

MR SPEAKER: I have received a letter from Mrs Dunne proposing a matter of public importance be submitted to the Assembly for discussion, namely:

The management of the environment in the ACT.

MRS DUNNE (4.12): We are here today to discuss the management of the environment in the ACT. In January this year the ACT faced what was not only the worst human disaster in its history but also the worst environmental disaster. On the human side, ironically, the only thing that stopped us having the outcome where we were counting the number of houses lost but not the number of suburbs was the fact that most of the fuel had gone up in the previous year in badly mismanaged fires resulting from arson attacks on a low-risk day.

If the fires of Christmas 2001 had occurred in the conditions of January 2003 no-one would have been safe. The lack of preparation for these fires showed massive neglect, almost verging on sabotage with, as the McLeod report revealed, fire trails not merely being neglected and allowed to become overgrown but being actively planted with trees. As the disaster approached, there was a reluctance to create firebreaks or to aggressively attack the fires in the early stages when this could have been easily done. What could have produced the decision to pull people out at dusk on the first day of the fires? Was it really an occupational health and safety issue? Was it that management did not want to blow out the budget or even, as rumour has it, a birthday party?

Even after that opportunity was lost there was a reluctance even to warn people that their houses were in danger. Other processes exist for determining the responsibilities for those fires, for the failure to learn the lessons of either of them. My point today is that it is just the most dramatic result of the whole approach which purports to be concerned with the environment but is, in fact, radically counterproductive.

Part of it stems from the influence of Greens and greenies in government and bureaucracy. A number of ALP governments depend to a greater or lesser extent on Green support, although, as we have seen lately, few have such reliable tame Greens as Ms Tucker, but the influence is much broader than that. The view that is absorbed is not just a concern for protecting the environment-would that it were. Specifically it is an


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