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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 10 Hansard (13 October) . . Page.. 3082 ..


Debate resumed from 24 March 1999, on motion by Ms Tucker:

That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

MR SMYTH (Minister for Urban Services) (3.42): Mr Speaker, the introduction of the Nature Conservation (Amendment) Bill 1999 by Ms Tucker has initiated a debate regarding the powers and appropriate qualifications of the Conservator of Flora and Fauna in the ACT. The issues raised in this Bill and the introductory statements by Ms Tucker implied that the conservator's decisions have compromised the environmental values of the ACT and have contributed to the degradation of the biodiversity of the ACT. She further implies that the ACT Government has not been proactive in protecting the environment of the ACT. This is patently untrue and contrary, and I believe that our track record and that of the conservator over recent years have set an example for all other jurisdictions.

I would like to briefly outline some of the significant activities and programs that the ACT Government, with the input of the conservator and others, have been involved in over the last two years. In 1997, the ACT Government recognised there was a need to make an even stronger commitment to the environment. A major way to ensure that environment protection and nature conservation were a focus priority was to create a single agency with the responsibility for environmental issues. On 5 June 1997, World Environment Day for that year, the Government established Environment ACT, an organisation of some 200 staff. It brought together disparate functions from land management, environment protection, research and environment policy areas.

Since the establishment of Environment ACT, the ACT Government has worked with the Conservator of Flora and Fauna and his staff, along with stakeholders, including the Commissioner for the Environment, the ACT Environment Advisory Committee and the ACT Flora and Fauna Committee, to achieve a wide range of leading edge environmental outcomes. Specifically, the Conservator of Flora and Fauna has fulfilled statutory obligations under the Nature Conservation Act 1980 and the Land Act 1991. These have included: development of Australia's first nature conservation strategy; development of long overdue management plans for public land; the declaration and then development of action plans for threatened species and ecological communities; provision of licences for activities under the Nature Conservation Act; and provision of advice regarding planning proposals.

In addition, a program of heightened community awareness and education on nature conservation issues has been undertaken. This has included the establishment of an Environmental Information Centre, web site and help line. There has also been a significant increase in the funding base for nature conservation activities.

Natural Heritage Trust funding for the ACT increased to over a million dollars in 1998-99 and bids for a similar amount have been made for 1999-2000. Seventeen projects totalling $430,000 have been funded through the ACT environment grants program from the previous year. Groups as diverse as conservation groups, land care groups, schools and the Environmental Defender's Office, receive funding in areas

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