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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 4 Hansard (17 April) . . Page.. 1010 ..

MR WHITECROSS (Leader of the Opposition) (3.05): Mr Speaker, without having the thing in front of me, I am somewhat hamstrung.

Mr Humphries: Adjourn the debate.

MR WHITECROSS: No, it is okay. I want to say something. I was following what Mr Humphries had to say. Mr Speaker, this is a welcome first step in this process in two ways. It is a first step in terms of being the first list of species which are being identified as endangered in one way or another, and it is also the first stage of a process of drawing up conservation strategies in relation to those species. From that point of view, it is very welcome, and I think it would be widely welcomed by the Canberra community. What they have done here is to focus on temperate grasslands as the first stage, which is very prudent. As we know, Canberra has been developed in a way that has focused on development in the grassland areas and in the woodland areas. The remaining areas of those habitats are more limited and, therefore, the species that make up the grasslands and the species that inhabit the grasslands are the ones that are in the greatest danger of being vulnerable or endangered. It therefore makes sense to start from that point.

As we go out from grasslands to woodlands and then up into the subalpine, alpine and dry forest areas, I am sure that there will be further declarations made. I think it is very appropriate that we start off in the areas of greatest danger, perhaps in many ways the areas that are least understood, the areas that are, by and large, outside the declared national parks and, therefore, in many ways are not as high in the consciousness of the community at large as are some of the alpine and subalpine areas of the ACT. These areas have attracted a lot of attention in recent times because the environment community has been very concerned that they were being overlooked and forgotten, and this is a welcome start down the road. We are building on the declaration down the track of reservations in relation to native grasslands in Gungahlin, as the Minister mentioned. I think this is a positive move. We look forward to seeing the kinds of conservation strategies that are developed in response to this declaration.

MS HORODNY (3.08): I think the comments the Minister made in regard to this are very valid. I would also like to remind the Minister that species cannot be conserved in a glass jar, as I think Ms Landsberg said on the radio this morning. In other words, the ecological communities are where we protect these species. I would remind the Minister again about Ginini Flats, which was listed as an internationally important wetlands area. The corroboree frog is found in Ginini Flats, so it is very important that that area is protected. There was some discussion and some media comment about a disagreement between us on that issue, not surprisingly.

We have only six rangers to look after what is essentially 40 per cent of the ACT, which is totally inadequate. I think we have to look at increasing the number of rangers we have in our national park. Despite all the fine things that governments say about Namadgi and how proud we all are of it - and we are indeed very proud of it - it is critical that we look after that national park, and particularly the areas within it that are particularly sensitive or are internationally important, such as Ginini Flats. It is a subalpine bog complex and it can be destroyed very easily by, for instance, a fire. There are a lot of threats to that type of ecosystem. There was a similar subalpine bog destroyed recently in Tasmania by a careless individual who set fire to it. It cannot ever be replaced.

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