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Ministerial Statement

MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General and Minister for the Environment, Land and Planning): I ask for leave of the Assembly to make a ministerial statement on the Government's support for community landcare volunteer programs.

Leave granted.

MR HUMPHRIES: I thank members.

Mr Wood: I had three years looking after that and I never once made a ministerial statement.

MR HUMPHRIES: You must not interject so much, Mr Wood. It is very bad for your blood pressure.

Mr Speaker, today I would like to speak about government support for community landcare volunteer programs. The Government has already begun work to fulfil a number of election commitments contained within our policies on the environment and on volunteering in the ACT. The policy on the environment noted that environmental sustainability cannot be achieved by government alone. It has to be a partnership with the community, involving efficient management, proper resourcing and effective incentives, together with openness by government and genuine consultation in decision-making. The policy on volunteering that we issued before the election sought to provide adequate resources for training of volunteers and managers of volunteer programs, and for increasing opportunities for individuals to volunteer in a range of interest areas.

Over the past five years landcare has grown beyond the status of a government-funded program to become a major social movement, with tens of thousands of Australian volunteers actively engaged in projects to protect the quality of land, water and wildlife resources. The halfway point in the Decade of Landcare has been an opportune time to review the success of such programs in the ACT. The ACT Parks and Conversation Service and the ACT Office of the Environment within the Department of the Environment, Land and Planning work with and support a very wide range of community landcare groups. These landcare groups operate over different categories of land, with different emphases in their activity. Through nearly a hundred such groups, many hundreds of volunteers contribute thousands of hours of unpaid effort. This work, if paid for directly by the ACT community, has been valued at over $1m. On a recurrent basis, the work has the potential to reduce the continuing bill to the ACT by even greater amounts. For example, each hectare of irrigated grassland converted by volunteer workers to more sustainable native landscapes saves at least $6,000 in maintenance each year and up to six million litres of precious water. The additional value to the community from the participants’ involvement, skill training and comradeship is, of course, beyond monetary estimate.

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