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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 9 Hansard (29 August) . . Page.. 2789 ..

Yarralumla Nursery

MS HORODNY: My question is directed to the Minister for Urban Services in relation to his responsibility for the management of Yarralumla Nursery. As you would be aware, Minister, the Yarralumla Nursery has been propagating local trees and shrubs since 1911 for use in city parks and also for distribution or sale to residents, and it has been a key contributor to the creation of the garden city in which we live. It has been reported recently that nine of its 31 permanent staff have been offered voluntary redundancy, which will seriously cut back the ability of the nursery to propagate local plants. It was also reported that because of these cuts the nursery will now be able to achieve only 10 per cent of its 1995-96 production of local plants and that the rest of its nursery plant requirements will have to be purchased from interstate. Could the Minister therefore explain why, in this time of severe cuts to Public Service jobs in Canberra and the negative flow-on effects to the local economy, the Government is virtually exporting jobs interstate by stopping the local production of plants at the Yarralumla Nursery?

MR DE DOMENICO: I thank Ms Horodny for her question. The first thing I need to say to Ms Horodny is that she should not necessarily believe all she reads, or anything that she reads in newspapers, because from time to time newspapers happen to get things wrong. Specialist propagators at Yarralumla Nursery will produce 400,000 cuttings, 300,000 seedlings and 70,000 tube stocks this financial year, 1996-97. As a result of a review by Coopers and Lybrand, Ms Horodny, the nursery intends to improve efficiency by outsourcing 100,000 propagation tubes from local specialist propagators - under contract, might I say - at considerable savings to the nursery. Local nursery seeds and cuttings will continue to be sourced from selected local trees and shrubs which have been best adapted to Canberra's extreme climate.

MS HORODNY: I wish to ask a supplementary question. Other jobs at the Yarralumla Nursery that are under threat are those of Greening Australia, which has had free office accommodation at the nursery for the past seven years and now has to move out, again as part of the nursery's cost-cutting measures. What is the Minister doing to find Greening Australia free or low-cost alternative accommodation so that it is not forced to pay commercial rates which would force it to cut its staff funding as well?

MR DE DOMENICO: I will answer that by saying that every other community organisation - Red Cross, the Smith Family and any others that take on government space - is asked to pay $95 per square metre or whatever the going rate is for community groups, so I cannot see why Greening Australia should be treated any differently, Ms Horodny. In direct answer to your question, we are looking at areas, for example, like the Cotter plots. We are looking at areas like those available at EPIC to make sure that Greening Australia has alternative sites if it wishes to remain in the ACT. We would be delighted to have them remain, by the way. It was seen that Yarralumla Nursery itself could better use the plots currently being used by Greening Australia. That is a decision that they have come to and made, and I agree with that decision. In fact, I am talking to the president of the local group of Greening Australia. I believe he is coming to see me this week or next week, and I will continue to have those discussions with him.

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