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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 10 Hansard (27 August) . . Page.. 2902 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

The design and duplication of Caswell Drive is also up in the air due to the legitimate concerns of Aranda residents and could lead to more costly engineering solutions to reduce noise impacts. Similarly, moving Caswell Drive to the east is not my desired option because of the significant impact this would have on the Black Mountain Reserve, consistent with what I have said in the past about the impact of this road on Bruce and O'Connor ridges.

The Black Mountain Reserve is not just a piece of vacant land that can be built on when it suits. It has inherent ecological value, as well as a range of values for the Canberra community, that must be respected and preserved. Mr Humphries made some comments earlier in this debate about what it means to support or oppose a budget and whether it should be possible to amend a budget.

The Greens have always assessed each budget on its merits and have been prepared to vote against the Liberal budgets as an expression, you could say, of our lack of confidence in the Liberal government's ability to govern this territory in a sustainable and responsible manner. Our stance was vindicated when the Liberal Party's mismanagement under Kate Carnell was finally exposed and the Liberals were thrown out of government.

We are now presented with the first Labor budget. It is the nature of budgets, as the bringing together of all government initiatives and programs for a particular year, that there are some parts that we think are good and some that we do not agree with. We are therefore forced to weigh up the pros and cons of a budget to come up with an overall assessment.

We also have to consider whether the opposition could have done a better job. We have assessed this budget and concluded that overall it is worthy of support, but I want to make the point here that this does not imply that we support the government's road building plan. I will continue to oppose the Gungahlin Drive extension when the issue arises in our business in the Assembly.

Turning to the funding of Environment ACT, the key initiative here is an additional $1.5 million over three years for nature conservation. This is really small bickies when it is realised that the budget for Environment ACT is $24.6 million yet it manages 53 per cent of the ACT. The overall environment budget only went up by 2.5 per cent from last year, so it is really just keeping up with inflation.

It is interesting that the initiatives listed for Environment ACT in the budget total some $1.3 million, yet its increase is only $0.6 million. I wonder what programs have been cut to free up the necessary funds. I note that the Estimates Committee expressed disappointment at the lack of detail on how those budget initiatives would be implemented.

The $1.5 million is meant to go a long way: it is supposed to fund increased field staff capacity, better natural resource information management systems, strategic planning and support for volunteer activities. Already this money seems to be stretched. For example, extra rangers are not being employed out of this money, but more administrative staff are being appointed-presumably, to allow the existing rangers to work even harder than they already do.

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