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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 5 Hansard (14 May) . . Page.. 1210 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

The fact that the trails have not been widened in a quite long period of time is a matter which I think should be the subject of criticism of those who have neglected doing that task for a long period of time, not those who are now doing it. The fact is that we do need to make sure that fire trails are maintained. This Government has made a point of the fact that under previous administrations that has not occurred. A significant report, the McBeth report, was tabled by the then Opposition at the end of 1994. It pointed out that there was a serious problem with neglect of fire retarding issues in the ACT, which the then Follett Government had not attended to and which I think, in the words of Mr McBeth, resulted in the ACT being liable to be rendered a tinderbox at some point in the future.

Mr Speaker, I make no apologies in this place for acting on that issue. I make no apologies for widening that fire trail. It needed to be widened. With great respect, if there are people who did not like it being widened, I do not think that is really a matter for public consultation. The thing has to be maintained to protect public safety. I can assure members that we would all have been subject to a bombardment of complaints from the community had the trails not been widened and had there been a major fire sweeping over O'Connor Ridge and destroying a number of houses, as was almost the case a few years ago.

Let me make one final point, Mr Speaker. Ms Horodny seems to be suggesting that because some trails have been widened, thereby cutting up or removing some grass on either side of the trails, somehow we are abrogating our responsibilities towards the endangered habitat of native grasslands which we declared in the last sitting period. Mr Speaker, that is so stupid as to not warrant comment. The fact is that we do occasionally have to cut grass and remove bits of grass for various purposes - public safety in this case. I make no apologies for doing that - that is in the public interest - and we will continue to do so. If we can have officers of the Parks and Conservation Service warn people about it, we will try to do so; but, with respect, I do not believe that keeping fire trails open is a matter for public negotiation.

Mrs Carnell: I ask that all further questions be placed on the notice paper.

Urban Services Budget

MRS CARNELL: Mr Speaker, could I give some more information with regard to Mr Moore's question at question time today? I am advised by the Office of Financial Management today that the Department of Urban Services is projecting that the expenditure side of the budget of City Services will come in on track in 1995-96; therefore, there is no budget blow-out. Mr Moore may have ended up with information that was not quite right because, as I have already said in this place on a number of occasions - I have actually identified the areas - there will be a shortfall on the revenue side of the budget due to non-collection of various fees, charges and so on during the recent dispute.

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