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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 09 Hansard (Thursday, 16 September 2021) . . Page.. 2604 ..

MR MILLIGAN: Chief Minister, how many businesses will never reopen, as a result of your failure to deliver the much-needed support in time?

MR BARR: I hope no businesses will fall over. But as the Prime Minister, the federal Treasurer and the federal finance minister at the time said at the beginning of the pandemic, it may not be possible for government to be able to save every single business. It may not be possible.

Now, of course, businesses rise and fall regardless of pandemics. It is not that every business survives even in non-pandemic circumstances. And this is an incredibly tough time. People can draw inspiration from previous generations who have overcome circumstances and shown incredible resilience. I think of those who lived through the Second World War, those who lived through the Great Depression, who showed it is possible to rebuild and recover from incredible circumstances and incredible economic and social shocks. This generation will prove to be resilient, too.


MS CLAY: My question is to the Minister for the Environment. Minister, access to our natural spaces is so important for our mental health, particularly during difficult times like the current lockdown. Our volunteer ParkCare and LandCare volunteers do an amazing job of looking after our land and managing weeds, and it is important for their mental health to get out and reconnect with nature. Recent changes to COVID restrictions allow picnics, exercise and other outdoor recreation, but these groups have been advised that they are unable to operate under current guidelines. What guidance can you provide landcare and catchment groups and their volunteers about when they may be able to return to outdoor working bees?

MS VASSAROTTI: Thank you, Ms Clay, for the question. To support the ACT government health restrictions, the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate has closed a number of reserves and campgrounds. It also paused all environmental volunteering activities and limited operational work to essential services only.

The parks and reserves outside urban areas, such as Namadgi National Park, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve and Cotter Precinct, have been closed to support the health directions, and that is around limiting our engagement outside our own households, encouraging people to restrict travel within regions and limiting the time permitted for outdoor recreation.

The timing of the recommencement of the volunteer activities through ParkCare, Waterwatch and Frogwatch are being carefully considered. We know that volunteers play a key role in our environmental programs, but this does need to be balanced against the risks presented by COVID-19. We also understand the mental health impacts of volunteering, and we want to get them back to work as soon as possible. We need to look at the health advice. Issues such as limitations on how long people can be out and the level of interaction between households and people will be key elements that will impact on health restrictions.

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