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MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General and Minister for the Environment, Land and Planning) (11.02): Mr Speaker, I present the Land (Planning and Environment) (Amendment) Bill (No. 2) 1995, together with an explanatory memorandum to the Bill.

Title read by Clerk.


That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

This legislation will replace the Soil Conservation Act 1960, which, together with the Mining Acts 1930 and 1931, is to be repealed. Mining is now a controlled activity under the Land (Planning and Environment) Act 1991, which renders the 1930 and 1931 Acts redundant. The Soil Conservation Act dates back to 1947 and was reintroduced in similar format in 1960. Enactment of this Bill will also make the Soil Conservation Act redundant. Repeal of the Soil Conservation Act 1960 will allow consolidation of the relevant environmental provisions affecting land into the one piece of legislation, the Land (Planning and Environment) Act 1991.

Activities which are an offence in the Soil Conservation Act will remain an offence in the amended Land Act. The amendment will also clearly establish the Government's responsibilities under those provisions. The land degrading activities which are to be listed in Schedule 5 of the Land Act as “controlled activities” and subject to orders cover the cultivation or disturbance of steep ground for any purpose, soil disturbance and removal of vegetation near a stream, and disturbance of a stream bank. In essence, any activity likely to result in soil erosion will be a controlled activity and subject to the provisions of the legislation.

The efficiency of application of the legislation will be improved through transfer from the Minister to the registrar of the ability to give a direction to stop or not to commence an activity. This is preferable to the previous arrangement, whereby obtaining a ministerial order was a complex, cumbersome and unused process, and replaces it with an arrangement whereby the registrar can intervene earlier with advice and warnings, backed up if necessary by realistic penalties.

The requirements of the orders process and the potential for appeal to the Land and Planning Appeals Board will act both as a deterrent to careless and irresponsible activity and as protection from malicious or trivial application of the process. I might point out, Mr Speaker, that, to the best of our knowledge, in the 35 years since the Soil Conservation Act was enacted it has not once been used to obtain an order of the sort which we are now transferring to the Land Act. I think that is a good case for repealing it.

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