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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 1 Hansard (20 February) . . Page.. 320 ..

MR STANHOPE: I know the terms of reference do not mention greenhouse, but the suite of inquiries we have in place is a structured approach we have adopted to deal with the range of issues we need to deal with to get the early answers we need on the causes, effect and management of the fire. The inquiry into non-urban land use which I announced this week-and I hope in the next few days to announce the chair and task force that will progress that inquiry-will deal with issues around the way in which we use or utilise the existing pine plantation area.

I acknowledge the importance of the greenhouse issue, and I am aware of the opinion that has been expressed about the extent to which the gradual and inexorable warming of the planet is leading and will lead almost certainly to more droughts and dry conditions and hence a greater potential future bushfire threat and fiercer and hotter-burning fires. I share your concern about the seriousness of that not just for us as a community or a nation but for the world.

I am also mindful of the importance, in the decisions we make ultimately about non-urban land use, of the fact that there are now 20 million or so dead trees in the ACT. In terms of our contribution to greenhouse, that is a significant issue for us to deal with. The tree population of the ACT, in one fell swoop, has declined by 20 million, with an interesting side effect. Some of the issues this presents to us, not just in the context of greenhouse, are interesting. I was intrigued by a piece of advice that Paul Perkins gave me: the water flow into the Cotter catchment dams has increased since the bushfire, not just because there has been some rain in the Corin catchment but because of the lack of uptake of water by trees that are all now dead. Mr Perkins advised me that that fact alone can increase the flow of water into the dams by perhaps one-half of 1 per cent, which illustrates the point you are making about how finely balanced nature is and the extent to which we, through human activity, distort nature and the environment. That information about water flows into dams has not been further explored, but it is a very direct example of the enormous impact of the fire.

The issue you raise is very serious. We did not specifically include greenhouse issues in the terms of reference. I think the question you ask is fundamental. The issue you raise is fundamental. I will ensure that through those studies the issues around maintaining our commitment to a reduction of greenhouse gases is very much part and parcel of our response.


MS MacDONALD: My question is to the minister for housing, Mr Wood. I understand that, of the 474 houses destroyed in the recent bushfires, 80 were ACT Housing properties. Of those, 54 were in rural areas. Many more housing tenants in the worst-affected suburbs had their houses damaged or their fences and gardens destroyed. My office has received many calls from tenants seeking information on these issues and has been more than pleased to be involved in assisting them. Minister, what assistance has ACT Housing given to its tenants affected by the bushfires?

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