Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 1 Hansard (18 February) . . Page.. 89 ..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
The government is adopting the attitude that we cannot assume that every tree is an enemy and that all trees that are very much part of our urban streetscape or landscape should be removed without justification. That is the position we are working our way through. It is a vexed and difficult issue. The government is doing all it can to be sensitive to the concerns and anxiety of individual residents. But the government has a position of not just responding to every request to have trees that are significant parts of the urban landscape removed.
MRS BURKE: My question is to the Minister for Planning, Mr Corbell. Minister, can you tell the Assembly how many houses have been destroyed and how many damaged in the bushfires? What is the breakdown on current estimates?
MR CORBELL: I cannot advise the Assembly of the exact number of houses destroyed. As I understand it, 450 to 500 homes have been completely destroyed or rendered uninhabitable as a result of the bushfire event on 18 January, and a significant number have been damaged but not to an extent that makes them uninhabitable. Our assessment has been based on whether or not the dwelling is uninhabitable. In that category there are 450 to 500 dwellings. I will confirm the number for Mrs Burke as soon as I can.
MRS BURKE: Could the minister please clarify what assistance is available to people whose houses have been damaged in the bushfires, not totally destroyed?
MR CORBELL: I presume Mrs Burke refers to assistance in relation to my portfolio responsibilities-planning approval and so forth. A range of assistance is available to householders who have been affected by the fire. It goes right across agencies, not just those in the planning area. I can speak in relation to my responsibilities as Minister for Planning.
Where a home is still habitable, then clearly there is no need to rebuild. The home is essentially intact, although there may have been some superficial damage to the exterior. The government is providing a range of advice to householders, particularly in relation to processes householders need to go through if, say, they have had a garage, shed or other outbuilding destroyed as a result of a fire. There have been quite a number of those.
Equally, the government is providing advice on what issues householders should consider when it comes to replanting gardens. Quite a number of householders saw their gardens destroyed but were able to save their home. I will be releasing shortly information to all affected households outlining what sorts of issues and what sorts of plants and trees residents should bear in mind when it comes to planting, or replanting, what will hopefully be a fire-wise garden.
The government is providing advice in that regard, as well as advice in relation to what approvals, if any, are required for the removal of damaged or destroyed outbuildings such as garages.