Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 07 Hansard (Wednesday, 30 June 2010) . . Page.. 2924 ..
forest renewal program. I know it does not suit Mr Smyth and Mr Seselja’s narratives on this item, but they are actually two different things. A little bit of research reveals that. It is important to draw a distinction because it is the urban forest renewal program that has had the money taken out of it in this year’s budget. The factual part of correcting that, as Ms Le Couteur has done in her amendment, is an important starting point. So thank you, Ms Le Couteur, for clearing that up for us.
I am excited by Mr Seselja’s passion for trees. His speech late last night in which he suddenly became a profound tree hugger was truly inspiring. It moved me to want to dash out to the shops this morning and buy him a tree hugger T-shirt to present in the chamber today. Unfortunately, with the late sitting and the busy agenda, I just did not have time, Mr Seselja. I will keep an eye out for one as I go around the markets. The question I have is: why would the Liberal Party not support Ms Le Couteur’s amendment, aside from the fact that it clears up the unfortunate terminology? That happens from time to time, so let us not harp on that too much.
The issue here is the urban forest renewal program. The government has identified, through steps that have already taken place so far, that it is very controversial. We agree with the referral to the commissioner for the environment to look at this program and the best way to roll it out because I think it is going to be extremely difficult. Mr Stanhope has talked about what is going to happen when a street faces losing all or half or even some of its trees. To have the commissioner consider this and look at the best ways to go about this program is a worthwhile thing to do. It is certainly something we advocated the government should do. It is vitally important to engage the community in this process if we are not going to end up fighting battles street for street through the city as we try to go through this very difficult program of replacing Canberra’s significant but, unfortunately, ageing urban forest.
From that point of view, the fact that the government have removed the bulk of the funding for the coming financial year from this program makes sense. They have left some residual funding to keep parts of the program moving forward but, while the commissioner for the environment is conducting the inquiry, clearly the government will not be moving ahead with significant investment. We think that is fair enough. There is no point putting the money into a budget when you are not going to spend it.
Ms Le Couteur’s motion calls on the government to restore the funding when it is needed. Once this study is undertaken, the commissioner has done her report and there is a clear path forward, we certainly will be urging the government—Mr Stanhope has said today that that is essentially the government’s intention, and we welcome that—to move forward quickly. We should see an appropriate level of resources invested into this program because, as I think everybody has touched on, we want this program to be run well and we want to see our urban forests replaced in a timely and, hopefully, sensitive manner.
I have made some comments publicly on the arboretum. At the time the Liberal Party came along and said, “They created this fabulous dichotomy for themselves out of a budget of nearly $4 billion.” The Liberal Party decided that the best thing to do was to compare trees with trees. They said, “We’ve got this gap over here so where else can we find the money for that? Well, it has got to come from the arboretum.” It is almost like they have created a little snow dome with the arboretum at one end and the urban