Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 9 Hansard (23 November) . . Page.. 2493 ..
MS TUCKER (12.38 am): If one is to judge this budget on its figures alone, the Environment and Land program fares quite well. An overall increase of some 7 per cent looks good in a budget where nearly everything else is faced with big cuts, but where is the money going? Most of the increased funding goes to support land development, not the environment. This is at a time when house prices are at their lowest point for years and there is an excess of office space. Why is there a need to increase an area of government which, it would appear, will have less, not more, to do in the coming year? Perhaps the Government is expecting Adam Smith's invisible hand to emerge from the grave and push the housing industry along a bit.
In contrast to land development, the pressures on the environment are not decreasing, but funding is. More people are visiting our national parks and impacting on them. Weeds are becoming more and more of a problem, and siltation continues to be a major issue in the Ginninderra Creek water catchment from Gungahlin development. While on the one hand it is good to see that the Government is adding 100 hectares of primary native grasslands to the ACT's reserve system, it is disappointing that the increased responsibility and workload of the conservation and land staff is not reflected in increased resources available to them. Where, too, is there any commitment to protect all our ecosystems in Canberra?
While 100 hectares of native grasslands is good, there are other areas of grasslands, and also woodlands, wetlands and roadside reserves, that need to be permanently protected and resourced to be properly managed. Is the Government relying entirely on the community to take up the slack? It does appear that way in the budget papers, which proudly state that there will be an expected doubling of the number of water-watch groups and an increased participation in Landcare groups as well. Great, but there is less Federal funding available this year and hardly any change to the resources provided by the ACT Government.
I have said before that the needs of the Landcare groups are fairly basic. They are performing a task of caring for our environment, which is desperately needed, where the Government does not have the resources to do it alone. The continued success of the Landcare movement is dependent on government support. A government's commitment to the environment is not restricted to the environment budget alone. At the back of this year's ACT State of the Environment Report there is a very useful table - Appendix 2, for those who may be interested - which clearly illustrates that virtually every administrative unit of the Government has some environment-related activities.
It would be pleasing if the performance indicators in next year's budget showed environmental indicators for every unit, not just Environment and Land. There is very little that Environment and Land can achieve on its own to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is also clear that tourism development has a real impact on our environment. So do building standards, energy and water policies, and decisions on what types of businesses it may be appropriate to promote in the ACT. In the budget papers we find the following interesting facts: At its current level of patronage, ACTION saves 68,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, 2,645 tonnes of carbon monoxide and 549 tonnes of nitrous oxide emissions each year.