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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 4 Hansard (31 March) . . Page.. 1422..

Gungahlin Drive extension

MS TUCKER: My question is to Mr Stanhope as Minister for Environment. It is related to endangered species and valuable biodiversity research sites on or near the GDE route and a petition handed to the minister today from 160 scientists, research fellows and other academics calling for a moratorium on the construction of the GDE because of the lack of a current comprehensive external and peer reviewed environmental impact assessment.

Minister, can you advise the Assembly how you will respond to this plea from the scientific community in the ACT, given that, clearly, the existing assessments have been inadequate as we have now had an extremely rare and endangered plant identified in the area of the GDE route and serious concerns are being raised by scientists about other vulnerable species? Will you continue just to attack the individuals concerned and the timing of their advice or will you deal with this important environmental responsibility?

MR STANHOPE: It is not true to say that I was handed a petition today. I have not been handed a petition today. I have had some advice that a petition has been provided somewhere, but it certainly has not been handed to me. I do not know whether it was provided to my office. For the sake of the record, the claim that a petition was handed to me is not correct, but I am aware that a petition apparently has been prepared.

You asked what I would say to them. I have to repeat, Ms Tucker, that the essential thrust of my comments yesterday was that this has been a long and very public process. It is a process that commenced in 1996 or 1997. There was a preliminary assessment process conducted by the previous government. There was, I believe, an Assembly committee inquiry into the GDE.

There were a number of other opportunities for a formal response to issues in relation to the GDE through two other preliminary assessments and through a broad range of public consultations conducted by the previous government and by this government-not necessarily through a formal process, but meetings that were arranged by departments and organised by the previous government and then community meetings and community consultation facilitated and conducted by this government after the change of government.

Over the last seven years-41/2 years of a Liberal government and 21/2 years of a Labor government-officials and departments have worked on a single project which has not deviated, despite the differences of opinion in relation to whether the route should follow the eastern alignment or the western alignment. We had a long debate and significant community discussion around that and it was resolved, perhaps unsatisfactorily in the view of some of us, at the end of the day.

The point I make is about the innumerable occasions and opportunities for input at all levels by organisations, by individuals, by scientists and by government advisory committees. There has been no constraint on or impediment to participation by anybody in the long debate and there have been many opportunities for contribution, including through preliminary assessments, an Assembly inquiry and all of those other forums that

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