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MS HORODNY (11.44): The Nature Conservation (Amendment) Bill, which was put forward by Mr Humphries, is supposed to remove limitations on protection of trees on urban leased land. I understand that this removes limitations that were apparently never intended to be in place. While the current legislation is not necessarily practical, I do believe that there is a need to ensure that there can be some scope to protect vegetation on private land, even in urban residential areas. While most people will attempt to ensure that their gardens are beautiful, with plenty of vegetation, it is often the older and not so aesthetically pleasing trees that are of greatest importance to the natural environment. It is the hollows in the old gum trees that provide the important habitat for our birds and animals, particularly the ones that are endangered, because the ones that can survive in our exotic species tend to be the ones that are not endangered in the first place. Other trees may represent the last remnants of the original natural vegetation.
People often choose to live in a certain place because of its natural beauty, and the trees on several adjoining properties can form a part of a landscape that has important aesthetic values. We have become increasingly aware of the impact of our individual lifestyles on others, and having complete and almost unrestricted freedom to remove native trees from urban leasehold land is as undesirable from a community point of view as removal of trees on rural and forest land. It is therefore important that we as a community can have some mechanism to ensure protection of trees, even in residential areas. It would have been most pleasing if the Government, instead of just removing an impractical mistake, had thought to bring in something that would have provided a creative and proactive solution.
MR MOORE (11.47): Mr Speaker, as I listen to each of the members debating this issue, I hear the main theme coming through that people wish to do whatever they possibly can to protect our native vegetation and, with it, our native species, and what we are trying to do is find the best possible way to do that. I see that coming through in Mr Humphries’s introductory speech; I see that coming through the speech by Mr Berry and the speech by Ms Horodny.
To me, it splits into two possible categories: Either we do it by forcing people or we do it by encouraging people, and the time-honoured method in the ACT has been by encouraging people. It starts with giving people 50 or so shrubs and trees to plant on their urban lease and proceeds in a culture within the suburbs of changing trees. I remember when my next-door neighbour took a tree out of his home block before he planted five to replace it. Not only was I there asking him why he was doing it but also a whole series of other people in the neighbourhood were asking him why that was going on. There was a very satisfactory solution, as far as we were concerned. Similarly, talking about native vegetation, it is probably seven or eight years since I cut a Cootamundra wattle out of my front yard. It is native vegetation, but there are those who would argue that Cootamundra wattle in the ACT is an invasive plant. We have to be particularly careful.
I think this comes down to the issue Ms Horodny raised: If we are going to remove this provision, why do we not have a more practical solution? In other words, why do we not have specific legislation for specific trees? If Ms Horodny were to put up a motion to that effect, I could see my way clear to looking at it in a very positive way because I think there are times when the whole area is affected by a specific tree. I am still concerned