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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 3 Hansard (12 March) . . Page.. 908 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

The ACT woodlands conservation strategy will identify the areas of high and very high conservation value that we need to protect. And we were pleased that the minister, in response to our motion, deferred the sale of land in east O'Malley pending the completion of this study.

But we are concerned to hear reports in the community that the government is no less wedded to its plan to sell this land, which would mean the destruction of significant areas of high and very high conservation value-which could simply be unnecessary.

The woodlands strategy, the bushfire inquiries, the non-urban land use study and the forestry industry study all have their part to play in informing Canberra's spatial plan and Canberra's future planning and development. Particularly relevant is the study to determine the most appropriate long-term use of land, including the land that has been used for softwood plantations.

If this work were to lead to the opening-up of new areas for greenfields residential development that were not available when decisions were made to include other areas in the land release program, then this is an important consideration to take into account in making territory-wide decisions on what areas should be developed and what areas should be protected.

It may well be that Canberra's need for further urban development can be better met by using already environmentally degraded land, thereby avoiding the need to bulldoze endangered remnant woodland to make way for houses.

It is now appropriate that we reconsider some of the decisions that underpinned the land release program in times gone by.

There are budget implications from reviewing the land release program. The government is making current ACT budget decisions based on anticipated revenue raised from land sales over the next few years. Our worry is that it will be these budget imperatives that drive the government's decision making rather than a considered, holistic territory-wide appraisal of what the most important areas are to protect and, in light of that, what the best areas are to make available for future development. We would not like to see the situation where inappropriate areas are developed because the government's bottom line is resting on the revenue from land sales.

Our concern in this regard is not restricted to east O'Malley, although we suspect that it is this area that faces the most immediate threat. With Lawson, Bonner and Forde and Kinlyside as well, the Canberra community would benefit from the government taking a step back, considering its own studies and processes and then taking another more considered look.

This is an opportunity-both for the community and for the government. A commitment by the government to revise the land release program would in the future avoid a community debate over each parcel of land as it goes to auction, as has been occurring in the case of east O'Malley.

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