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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 6 Hansard (15 May) . . Page.. 1680 ..

MR WOOD (continuing):

There are no markets for eucalypt timber in Canberra, and 500 hectares of eucalypt plantation would not be of sufficient size to encourage the development of a new forestry industry to process the wood. I know Ms Tucker was presenting a range of options. Moreover, the loss of 500 hectares of pine plantation would have a large impact on the volume of pine logs that can be supplied to the existing forest industry and could jeopardise the ongoing viability of this important industry.

Rehabilitation of the pine plantation to its original native vegetation, another of the options for consideration, on a scale like this would be very difficult and expensive, and it would take more than a decade to make significant progress. Given that some 53 per cent of the Australian Capital Territory is protected as a national park or a nature reserve, I do not believe there is a compelling reason to generate additional native forest.

The government has taken the decision, on good advice, to replant the burnt areas with pines this winter to ensure that the area is restored as quickly as possible. ACT Forests has been working hard to ensure that all the necessary clearing and site preparation works are completed in time for winter planting. It would be very undesirable to jeopardise all this hard work by putting the replanting operations on hold while a review is undertaken. Ms Dundas' amendments are designed to overcome that problem.

ACT Forests has already spent $450,000 on rehabilitation works in the Stromlo area. It has contractual commitments for another $320,000 to complete the rehabilitation works. It has made a down payment of $110,000 on the purchase of pine seedlings for the replanting. This money will be wasted if the replanting is not able to proceed.

Perhaps not everybody understands that the burnt area of the plantation was fully insured and that the insurance covers the cost of re-establishing the burnt area as a pine plantation. It would clearly not be valid to use the insurance money for some other purpose. We would be fully committed to the cost if we changed course. Any decision to delay the replanting operations could jeopardise the claim for the money already expended on site rehabilitation works.

I understand the background of the motion and the amendments, but I think in all the circumstances we cannot change course. The pine plantation goes back a long time, back to the beginning of this territory, and we cannot make decisions that would affect this long history in an unfortunate way. The government has very good grounds not to support the motion or the proposed amendments. Work is well under way now and needs to continue.

MRS DUNNE (6.11): I rise to oppose the motion and the amendments and to repeat and reinforce the points made by Mr Wood. I have been approached by many on this issue since the fires at Christmas time. Canberrans know that the fires caused a great loss. The scars and the barren state of the Greenhills forest and the areas around are a constant reminder of that.

I understand why many in the community are eager to see a change in the land use there. When I raised this with Tony Bartlett from ACT Forests, I understood fairly early in the piece that this was not something that we could proceed with.

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