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Parks and open spaces in and around our urban environment not only provide recreational facilities for the community but also are important as plant and animal habitat. As humans, our needs are continually encroaching on natural ecosystems. The regent honeyeater and the rare superb parrot, for example, are suffering from continued harvesting of their nesting trees for our firewood. Namadgi National Park, with its granite boulders, has large protected areas of beautiful and diverse alpine and forest wilderness as well as a rich heritage of human history. Evidence of Ngunnawal people’s existence goes back at least 20,000 years. Like the Ngunnawal, who still live across a large area of southern New South Wales and the ACT, we must recognise our role in this larger cultural and ecological region.
There is no doubt that what we do in Canberra impacts across the border and activities across the border affect us. We must work with local governments in New South Wales to address problems such as the smoke from so-called control burning and the downstream impact of pollution in our waterways. We have a unique opportunity in the ACT to set a precedent for environmental sustainability. This can be done through the encouragement of self-sufficiency in foods and industries appropriate to the region.
Mr Speaker, during my years as a volunteer and paid worker with the Wilderness Society, I, along with thousands of other Canberrans, lobbied the Federal and New South Wales governments to protect our remaining wilderness forests and place the timber industry securely into plantations. People often ask me, “Why is the timber industry allowed to degrade a finite resource when alternatives are already available?”. To that question there is a simple answer: “Lack of political will and lack of vision”. In Canberra we are fortunate to have a viable timber industry based entirely on plantations. This industry is sustainable and returns around $75m to the ACT economy.
To address the problems in Canberra we must recognise that, as elected members, we do not have all the answers. However, we do have an enormous resource in the people of Canberra. This community wants to be involved in the continued evolution of the ACT. Since being elected, I have had many visits from people offering positive and creative ideas. Ensuring that people are listened to and that their ideas are considered in a serious and conscientious manner is important. Active debate in the community does not necessarily make our lives easier. Indeed, decisions may become more difficult, and the loudest voices do not always have the right answers. However, it is important to have open debate to empower the community and to engender greater trust in the political system and the elected representatives.
Mr Speaker, I have always been an optimist and believe strongly in working to create change to provide a solid and positive foundation for our future. If we as a community set ourselves clear long-term goals, we can achieve them. As Greens we represent a range of views and ideas specific to our local community while maintaining a belief in certain philosophies of ecology, justice and peace. These ideas are not new or radical; but they are ultimately sensible, practical and, indeed, pragmatic. We have all had parents or grandparents who lived through the Depression and who knew how to reuse things, how to store things and how to keep things for a rainy day. Yet we do not call