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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 12 Hansard (25 November) . . Page.. 3765 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

This amendment establishes a statutory body called the Rural Conservation Trust, which will provide advice to the Minister on issues relating to land management agreements and nature conservation on rural leases. The provisions in this amendment may seem long and complicated, but they are modelled on the ACT Heritage Council provisions and the Land Act. Of particular interest are proposed section 221C, which describes the functions of the trust, proposed sections 221F and 221G, which specify the membership of the trust, and proposed section 221R, which describes issues to be covered in the trust's annual report.

As I said in the in-principle debate, I do not believe that the Government's proposal to establish a fund of money called a Rural Conservation Trust goes far enough. I believe that there also needs to be a group of people who have the specific task of administering this money and overseeing implementation and effectiveness of the LMAs. The conservation council proposed a totally independent statutory authority with its own staff and budget and its own enforcement powers. But my concern with this proposal is that such an organisation would overlap considerably with Environment ACT and the powers of the conservator.

To establish this form of Rural Conservation Trust would require considerable restructuring of Environment ACT. Rather than impose this disruption, I propose that the Rural Conservation Trust be established as purely an advisory committee reporting to the Minister. The Minister will still retain all his statutory powers regarding LMAs and other land management and nature conservation issues. If after some time of operation the trust looks like it is working well, then perhaps some further powers could be given to it. But at this stage I think it is adequate to set it up as an advisory body.

Membership of the trust is quite broad and represents a range of stakeholders and expertise in rural conservation. The Rural Lessees Association would be formally represented on this body, which is something that they would like, as I understand it, because they have been concerned for some time that none of their members were ever asked to be on the Minister's Environment Advisory Committee.

MR KAINE (5.29): I cannot support this proposal from Ms Tucker. I think it is a means by which the Government and others could be far too intrusive on the rights of rural lessees. If Ms Tucker wants to achieve some environmental input into the way rural lessees manage their properties, there is a already a body called the Environment Advisory Committee, and she could seek to amend the terms of reference of that committee to give them some additional responsibilities. But to try to set up a completely new mechanism with the powers and functions that she proposes to give them is going way beyond what is reasonable.

She is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut, in my view. It would incur additional cost to the taxpayer to set up and run such a function. It would be a duplication in some degree of the advisory committee that already exists. It is quite unnecessary and it would be unduly intrusive.

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