Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 05 Hansard (Thursday, 13 May 2021) . . Page.. 1424 ..
more than 20 years of a Labor-Greens government has led to a decline in Canberra’s environment. Consider these points: Canberra is losing 3,000 trees each year, the tree canopy is shrinking, parks and reserves are poorly maintained, nature strips are often weed infested, many streets in Canberra’s newer suburbs are almost treeless and communities are deprived of much-needed green space.
A report released last year by RMIT University and Greener Spaces Better Places found that, since 2016 in the ACT, green spaces—trees, grasses and shrubs—have increased by just 1.3 per cent, while grey spaces—roads, paths, car parks and roofs—have increased by 1.4 per cent. The Where will all the trees be? national tree canopy benchmarking document warned that the ACT could face problems just maintaining the green cover as our population grows and suburbs are developed.
The Canberra Liberals support the government’s 30 per cent urban tree canopy target and believe that we should meet and exceed that. I want to emphasise the tripartisan support for this worthy environmental goal, as well as call on the government to provide annual updates to the Assembly about its efforts towards the target and a report on the current tree canopy percentage by suburb.
The Canberra Liberals went to the last election with strong environment policies, including planting one million trees to increase our urban tree canopy, provide guaranteed green space, improve our parks and reserves, and conserve water and reduce emissions. A Canberra Liberals government would have also given every child a tree on their first day of kinder, which contrasts with the government’s poor record on tree planting at schools, which equates to less than five trees per school since 2017. Canberrans are concerned about the loss of trees because we know that our trees add to our environment, wellbeing and quality of life.
Tree canopies are under threat, particularly in our older suburbs, with development leaving postage-stamp-size gardens and certainly no tree canopy plantings. Too many Canberrans are mourning the loss and lack of trees in neighbourhoods that increasingly appear barren and grey. Clearly, we are not out of the woods. We can see grey cover mounting and need the green cover to be increasing alongside that.
The Canberra Liberals believe nature must be respected and protected, and that is why we will hold the Labor-Greens government to account on its environmental stewardship. It is the opposition, the Canberra Liberals, which has been demanding answers from the Greens leader and minister for emissions reduction, Shane Rattenbury, about when the government will begin work on the major review of the climate act, which should have started in October last year. Minister Vassarotti, Canberrans and the Canberra Liberals are still waiting for Minister Rattenbury to tell us when the government will start the review, let alone provide it.
In her statement, Minister Vassarotti says that Canberrans have access to nature within a kilometre of their home. That is something Canberrans should delight in, but that is not the case for everyone across the territory. In my electorate of Yerrabi, you only need to visit Yerrabi Pond to realise that this government still has a lot of work to do in making parks, green spaces and waterways pleasant for Canberrans and their