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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 5 Hansard (4 May) . . Page.. 1715..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

I seek leave to make a very brief statement.

Leave granted.

MR STEFANIAK: Mr Speaker, scrutiny report 47 contains the committee's comments on seven bills, 12 pieces of subordinate legislation and six government responses. The report was circulated to members when the Assembly was not sitting, and I commend the report to the Assembly.

Environment Legislation Amendment Bill 2004

Debate resumed from 1 April 2004, on motion by Mr Stanhope:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MRS DUNNE (11.32): Mr Speaker, this bill incorporates a number of important amendments to the Nature Conservation Act 1980 which have come about as a result of what might be called the Transgrid nastiness in 2000. In 2000, utility contractors contracted by Transgrid did a whole range of clearing under their power lines through Brindabella National Park and Namadgi National Park. In doing so they cut a 400 to 500-metre wide swathe through some tens of kilometres of Namadgi National Park and Brindabella National Park, which caused a huge amount of environmental damage.

Transgrid actually fessed up to what they did and came to the party by providing money for compensation and for regenerating the area. But as a result of this process, it was realised that there were deficiencies in the ACT's Nature Conservation Act. For the most part, people envisaged that damage to vegetation would be a case of somebody cutting down one, two or three trees, not tens of square kilometres of damage, as was the case with the Transgrid clearing under the power lines.

These amendments to the Nature Conservation Act, which the opposition supports, will ensure that unlicensed clearing of native vegetation in a reserved area or the damaging of land in a reserved area is, with certain exemptions, illegal. A whole range of new offences relate to the removal without a licence of rock, soil, sand, stone and similar substances. The legislation will also ensure that destruction that is allowed is in accordance with the provisions of part 6 of the land act; or in relation to a management plan; or in accordance with the bushfire fuel management plan; or is necessary to avoid imminent risk of serious harm to persons.

Generally, I believe that these changes are good, welcome and address the problems that we encountered because we now create the notion of not just damage but serious damage and material damage, which are important gradations that fit in with changes in the criminal code.

I commend the government for bringing forth this amendment and also a concomitant amendment to the Environment Protection Act, which requires government agencies to report on damage. I think that this is a good step forward. We will be supporting these amendments and we will be supporting the bill in principle.

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