Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 3 Hansard (12 March) . . Page.. 907 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
It is in that spirit that I move this motion today. There are several important studies going on in respect of land use and related matters, and we want all areas of planning to benefit from them. I understand also that at this stage in the government's term, it would want to be seen to be not just considering things but also acting upon them. But there are times for prompt action, and there are times when it is appropriate to take another look at earlier decisions in light of new information that has come forward since those decisions were made.
Our concern is that several areas of land that have been identified for development through the land release program were included on the basis of old information and in the absence of the understanding that we can expect to gain through these studies and processes. It is likely that the outcomes of these processes and inquiries will demonstrate that it is inappropriate to develop many of the areas previously identified for development, such as Lawson, Forde, Bonner, Kinlyside and east O'Malley.
We know more about ecology and the importance of preserving endangered grassy woodlands than we knew when these decisions were made. And when the new ACT woodlands conservation strategy is completed we will know even more.
We know that woodland was the characteristic vegetation, covering 25 per cent of the Australian continent prior to European settlement. We know that only 25 per cent of good quality remnant woodland remains in the ACT. In the broader region of south-east New South Wales there is only some 5 per cent of the original yellow box/red gum woodland left. The white box woodland has been practically wiped out. In 1997 yellow box/red gum woodland was declared an endangered ecological community.
We also know that, despite the efforts currently being made to protect woodland areas, the region's bird life is still in decline and we need some good, solid scientific work to find out why. Yes, another study!
The saga of the yellow box/red gum stand of trees on Nettlefold Street, Belconnen, illustrates the problems we have-and the cost to the community-when there is disharmony between the planning regime and the mechanisms for protecting important trees, wildlife habitat and community amenity.
While some of these trees will be protected-to the extent possible on the site of the commercial liquor barn-other important trees will be felled, and the community is losing out as a result. Although Environment ACT had been advising government of the need to protect this area for several years, the former Liberal government nonetheless sold the land for commercial development. And although the Commissioner for the Environment pointed to several problems with the process and the community has been urging the government to either reacquire the land or facilitate a land swap, the community has as yet had no joy from the minister.
What we are trying to get to is a situation where our important natural treasures are identified and protected first, so that our planning and development takes place around what we as a community have decided we need to protect. But too often we see these natural treasures sacrificed to a drive for development while the community watches and despairs.