Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 3 Hansard (24 March) . . Page.. 716 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
too many allowances for the Government's desire to promote recreation and tourism activities in nature reserves and generally to not place impediments in the way of development in the ACT rather than present a clear, scientifically based opinion on the impacts of such proposals on the environment.
The Greens actually dealt with this issue as part of a Bill we tabled in the last Assembly to amend the Nature Conservation Act but it was overshadowed by the debate over the tree protection provisions in that Bill. However, this issue has come to the fore again because of two reports that have recently come out of the Urban Services Committee in which the actions of the current conservator were seriously questioned.
First, in the committee's report on the draft management plan for Canberra Nature Park the committee made some quite scathing remarks about the conservator's actions in relation to recommending that horse riding be allowed in the Aranda bushland. The committee stated, and I quote:
The Committee is seriously disturbed that the Conservator of Wildlife would approve an extension of horse trails in CNP, including into the Aranda bushland, in the absence of detailed knowledge about the effect of horses upon existing areas. In the opinion of members, this action is bordering on negligence.
The committee also stated, and I quote again:
... the duty of the Conservator is to protect and conserve, not to balance the competing claims of conservation, recreation and other activities.
Secondly, in the committee's report on the draft management plan for Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, the committee noted that the conservator had a "curious" role as both the proponent of building development in the reserve and also as the person who would be giving advice to PALM on the appropriateness of this development. The committee recommended that the approvals process should be varied, and I quote:
... to ensure that the Conservator is not placed in a position where he or she is both the proponent of a development and the provider of what is expected to be impartial advice about the conservation impact of the development.
At present the Executive Director of Environment ACT, who is one of the senior executives in the Department of Urban Services, also performs the role of conservator. Both of these reports suggest that there is a need to separate the statutory role of conservator from that of Manager of Environment ACT as it is becoming increasingly obvious that the managerial role is taking precedence over the conservation role.
I agree that a separation of these functions would help to overcome the types of problems I have referred to. However, I think that a further step needs to be taken and that is to look at the need for the conservator to have sufficient qualifications to undertake the important nature conservation role. I noted yesterday, Mr Speaker, in their response to