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Bushfire Fuel Reduction Program

MS HORODNY: My question is to the Minister for the Environment, Land and Planning, Mr Humphries. As the Minister no doubt is aware, a program of fuel reduction burning has just commenced in Canberra's nature parks. Spring is the breeding period for many bird species, and many types of plants which are not adapted to a regular fire regime flower at this time of year. Will the burning-off program continue, despite concerns which have been raised by the community about its highly destructive environmental impact and the extensive damage that has been done already in Aranda's bushland areas?

MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Speaker, I thank Ms Horodny for the question. I sent Ms Horodny, as with the other members of this place, a copy of the report of the Glenn committee into bushfire fuel reduction management in the Territory. If she looks at that report she will realise that there is a very real question about how we manage large parts of the ACT which in some cases have accumulated a very significant build-up of combustible material which must be reduced if we are to assure citizens of this Territory that they are not in danger - - -

Mr Berry: Why now? Why do you pick spring?

MR HUMPHRIES: I have this amazing question from Mr Berry: “Why now?”. It should have been a year ago, Mr Berry, but you suppressed the report which told you that there was a problem. You suppressed the report that told you that you should have been acting on this issue. We have been in office for just over six months. In those six months we have commissioned and obtained a comprehensive report from people, including local rural land managers and environmentalists, which considers the need and the manner of reducing bushfire material around the ACT. We have obtained that report. That report is on the table. You have received a copy of it.

Mr Berry: Why not autumn?

MR HUMPHRIES: It was autumn when we got the report. It was autumn when we got into government in this place and we started doing the work that you should have done years ago. That is why it was not last autumn. The report is now available. We have the blueprint for how to proceed with that matter. It should have been here a year ago, but it finally came, under this Government, about a month ago. We are now in the process of putting in place bushfire fuel management plans for the whole of the Territory. It is our ambition to put the whole of the Territory under such plans. That, Mr Speaker, is why we are undergoing the process of identifying what those areas are and how we reduce those bushfire management problems.

That we need to burn in order to be able to do that is a fact of life which the report which I referred to identified. I hope that Ms Horodny has bothered to read that report, because it makes it clear that sometimes we do need to burn. Ms Horodny will realise that that was not a position taken just by this Government or just by Parks and Conservation or Emergency Services. It was a position supported by representatives of organisations such as the Conservation Council.

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