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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 1 Hansard (18 February) . . Page.. 88 ..


MRS CROSS: My question is to the Chief Minister in his capacity as Minister for the Environment. Minister, following the terrible bushfires we have just experienced, many citizens of Canberra have been left with burnt and dangerous trees that could threaten their property and lives. Can you please confirm whether Environment ACT has been facilitating requests from residents to remove trees they consider to be dangerous and, if so, what is the process those requests have been following?

MR STANHOPE: This is one of the issues of significant interest and concern to a number of residents, in particular residents of the suburbs most significantly affected by the fire. It is not as straightforward an issue as, on first blush, one might think it to be. A number of trees primarily and principally in Duffy, Holder, Chapman and Kambah were significantly affected by the fires. A significant number of trees were rendered unsafe, and some parts of a number of trees were rendered unsafe.

Members would be aware that the windstorm that was very much part and parcel of the firestorm wreaked considerable havoc, particularly through Chapman and Kambah. The strength of the wind was enormous. A number of trees were uprooted or seriously damaged.

The Department of Urban Services and Environment ACT have both been heavily involved in the assessment of trees, the felling of trees that have been determined to be dangerous and the pruning of trees where it has been believed that branches or parts of trees have represented a danger. Both organisations have been rigorous in responding to community concern about dangerous trees. I understand that officers meet every request for advice on a dangerous tree at the earliest possible moment.

As members would be aware, during the state of emergency the head of Environment ACT suspended operation of tree protection legislation. That suspension terminated at the lifting of the state of emergency, and a number of people have expressed angst and some frustration at their inability to remove, as a matter of course, trees that they believe represent a danger in both their structural safety and their potential to damage a nearby house. This is a vexed question. This is a question that I think will test us as a community for some little time to come, as we continue to work through a range of issues around ensuring that our houses are as safe as possible.

That is some background to your question, Mrs Cross. Quite specifically, the Department of Urban Services and Environment ACT respond as soon as possible. I do not believe there are any delays inherent. However, in a number of instances, there are differences of opinion between officers of the Department of Urban Service and Environment ACT about the safety or integrity of certain trees, and some significant differences of opinion have been expressed between the department and residents around whether or not particular trees should be removed. We are trying to negotiate our way through those.

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