Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 9 Hansard (19 August) . . Page.. 3936..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
Minister for Community Affairs) (3.31): I ask for the leave of the Assembly to make a ministerial statement concerning bushfire recovery and renewal.
MR STANHOPE: On 18 January 2003 we, as a community, faced the worst natural disaster in our 90-year history. In fact, by any measure, it would rank as one of Australia's worst single-day natural disasters. The total financial cost of the fires has been estimated at $350 million. To that must be added the human cost. We will never be able to calculate the real cost of the firestorm. However, I have taken enormous pride in watching how our community-in particular, the people of Weston Creek, Woden, Tuggeranong and our rural areas-has responded. I also take great pride in the part that my government has played in the recovery.
Since that dreadful day, the government has given the highest priority to assisting people directly impacted by the fires with information, services and personal support. The demanding recovery effort continues to be an outstanding example of a true community partnership supported by the skills and expertise of people in the government, the community sector and across the wider Canberra community. I must emphasise that the success of the recovery process has been largely due to the high level of community involvement in both the initial emergency response and the longer-term recovery efforts.
This community involvement is exemplified by the work of the Community and Expert Reference Group. That group has provided advice from the earliest days of recovery and it continues to be a significant source of advice for my government on recovery issues. This partnership approach contributed to the success of the ACT recovery centre, the work of which is continued by the bushfire support unit in the Chief Minister's Department. That unit provides a dedicated point of contact for bushfire-related support services to those still struggling with the emotional impacts of the fires. In addition, Housing ACT has set up a single point of contact, with a dedicated phone line, to assist public housing tenants who are affected by the bushfires. We have continually adapted our services to address the changing needs of affected community members.
On 18 January this year the government organised an anniversary ceremony at Stage 88 in Commonwealth Park. That event gave hundreds of people in the community time to reflect, to come together and grieve, and to gain strength from the sense of a more united community coming out of the disaster. Whilst we have moved forward as a community, we have also learnt many valuable lessons. It is now just over 12 months since Ron McLeod released his report. I am pleased with the progress to date. During 2003-04, we allocated $38 million to implement the recommendations in the report and further support recovery and rebuilding efforts. That was backed up in this year's budget with an additional $34 million, bringing total funding for bushfire recovery to over $122 million by 2007.
This year's budget included $6 million for the massive ongoing clean-up and debris removal program in ACT forests and nature parks; $9 million over four years for pine plantation reestablishment; and $650,000 in this financial year to plant 350,000 native and exotic plants across an area of 700 hectares. Our swift and considered response to the McLeod recommendations has had a significant effect: it has identified and resulted in improvements in our capacity to deal with future emergencies. In essence, this means