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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 2 Hansard (5 March) . . Page.. 546 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

completed on 3 April 2002 it was considered appropriate by the environment protection officers and the independent tree adviser to recommend that the trees be approved for removal on the ground that it was demonstrated that all reasonable alternative development options and design solutions that should have been considered had been considered to avoid the necessity for tree removal.

It is the case that the tree assessment reports of 3 April 2002 recommended the removal of the trees. However, it should be noted that the tree assessment reports of 3 April were not considered in the conservator's original decision of 27 May 2002. At the time of making her decision, the conservator understood that trees 11, 12, 13, 14 and 26 were considered exempt from the act. Subsequent legal advice was obtained that removal of the trees is covered by the act. New tree assessment reports were therefore completed in January 2003 and reflect the independent tree adviser's view that the trees are an unacceptable risk to public or private safety. The conservator insisted on several site inspections by environment protection officers and the tree adviser before making her latest decision.

In relation to whether I would agree to have these assessments redone by an appropriately qualified person, to be determined in consultation with the community organisations and members who are trying to protect these trees, my answer is no. Under the legislation, there is an independent tree adviser who advises the conservator. This is in addition to the advice that the environment protection officers gave. Mr Peter Sutton was the independent tree adviser who advised the conservator with respect to the Nettlefold Street trees. I am happy to ask Mr Sutton to meet with any member of the Assembly to discuss the tree assessments.

In relation to the supplementary question, I am advised that the conservator met with members of the community to discuss the decision and conditions of approval in conjunction with notifying the applicant of the decision. The time delay was to allow for the conservator to be able to contact the applicant and give the applicant some privacy. Knowing the concerns of some community members, the conservator wished to advise them personally, rather than news of the decision getting to them second hand. I endorse such an approach, as it shows respect for their concerns.

Each of the trees in question was evaluated as in either fair or poor condition in both assessments. I conclude with the observation that the Conservator of Flora and Fauna is an independent statutory officer and the decisions she made in relation to the trees at Nettlefold Street were made by her, on the advice of independent tree assessors, in her capacity and free from any ministerial involvement. In that light and in light of the independence of this process, I am not prepared to interfere with the statutory role and responsibility of any officer.

Indigenous housing

MR WOOD: Mr Speaker, I wish to follow up on the question from Ms Tucker about indigenous housing and the allocation of funds by confirming that we expect that allocation to be done by the end of March.

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