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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 10 Hansard (Wednesday, 22 September 2010) . . Page.. 4300 ..

understanding, but I would be happy to confirm some of those conclusions in relation to dollar amounts that I understand were fundamental to the conservator’s thinking in the decision that he took as a statutory officer in relation to the removal.

MR SPEAKER: A supplementary, Ms Le Couteur?

MS LE COUTEUR: You mentioned that the conservator was starting to negotiate about the tree. When did the conservator start, given that the timing was clearly an issue, from what you have said? Was this at the end of the process, at the beginning of the process? Was it negotiation or was it a statement by ANU?

MR STANHOPE: I should say that the conservator falls within the portfolio of the minister for the environment in relation to the conduct of his duties in relation to trees. I do not have that information available to me. I am more than happy to find it. I do not whether the minister does. I am more than happy to take that question on notice.

I have to say that the conservator is an independent statutory officer for the purpose of the decision that he took in relation to this tree, and I would not imagine that he negotiated. Certainly I understand he took advice, as he would, and he took advice, I am advised, on issues such as the potential for the tree to be moved and the cost and implications of that. I understand he took advice on the cost to the proponent of the tree not being removed.

I have to say, as much as I regret the fact that that tree has been removed—it was a magnificent tree—I believe, on balance, in these difficult issues, as always, the reasons that I imagine the conservator took into account were valid and reasonable in the context of the social benefit to be gained from the construction under the NRAS scheme of an additional 500-plus units of student accommodation.

MS HUNTER: A supplementary?

MR SPEAKER: Yes, Ms Hunter.

MS HUNTER: Minister, what is the government’s policy on removing trees from the provisional and permanent tree registers, and how can the public be assured that the tree register is a meaningful statutory protection?

MR STANHOPE: Thank you, Ms Hunter. What the government has done in relation to the sorts of assurances you seek is to ensure that the Conservator of Flora and Fauna acts independently of government, so that the sorts of decisions that you have just included in your question are decisions for the conservator alone. I think I should say that at no stage in relation to the decision around the removal of the oak tree did the government give advice to the conservator on the decision that it believed that he should make or take. What the government has done to seek to give the sorts of assurance and comfort that are at the heart of your question is to ensure that decisions in relation to the removal of trees from or addition of trees to the tree register are made independently of government, by a senior statutory officer exercising independent statutory responsibilities.

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