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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 6 Hansard (2 September) . . Page.. 1760 ..

MR SMYTH (continuing):

The issue of lease conditions and the insertion of a site restoration provision in the lease would not only fail to capture all existing sites, but also it may compromise the future ability and the future development in environmental standards, and lessees may be in a position to rely on the protection afforded by their existing lease and, therefore, escape compliance with the new standards.

Mr Hargreaves has suggested that we should involve the Commissioner for the Environment in overseeing the restoration of service station sites. That is not an appropriate role for the commissioner. The functions of the commissioner are set out quite clearly in section 12 of the Commissioner for the Environment Act 1993, and these functions are:

(a) investigating complaints regarding the management of the environment by the Territory or a Territory authority;

(b) conducting such investigations as may be directed by the Minister;

(c) conducting, of his or her own motion, investigations into actions of an agency where those actions could have a substantial impact on the environment of the Territory.

I think what Mr Hargreaves is referring to is the Environment Management Authority, which is a statutory authority established under the Environment Protection Act 1997, which is responsible for managing all aspects of the environment, including soil contamination arising from certain land uses. So it is not appropriate that we give this role to the commissioner. It is not an appropriate role. The commissioner has an independent role, not a day-to-day administrative role.

I turn to the Environment Protection (Amendment) Bill 1998. Recently, the Government has tabled in the Assembly an exposure draft for amendments to the Environment Protection Act 1997 to deal specifically with the issue of contaminated sites. The Assembly has already directed the Standing Committee on Urban Services to examine this draft and to report to the Assembly by 22 September 1998.

Under this proposed legislation the Government will be able to deal efficiently with not only service station sites but also other contaminated sites. The approach adopted by the Government, Mr Speaker, is that, if the land uses approved for the site are to be varied to include a more sensitive land use, the contaminated land must be assessed and, if necessary, remediated to a condition suitable for the more sensitive land use. In addition, Mr Speaker, if the contamination present on the site has, or is likely to have, a detrimental effect on the environment, the authority will be in a position to ensure that the site is managed to achieve the best environmental outcomes. Once this legislation is passed these rules will apply to all contaminated land, including service station sites. In line with the polluter-pays principle, Mr Speaker, the person responsible for the contamination will be required to organise and pay for such clean-up.

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