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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 4 Hansard (2 April) . . Page.. 1303 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

on the reserve of such disturbance factors as house and car lights, traffic and other noise, domestic pets and pedestrian traffic that will be operating in the adjacent urban area.

The recent bushfires have provided a good opportunity for us to re-examine how we manage the whole idea of the urban edge. I understand that the government is doing work in this area in its studies. I understand that PALM is doing an urban edge review and that PALM and Environment ACT are working on buffers with the Conservation Council of the South East Region and Canberra. They are trying to develop a list of principles for what does, in fact, constitute an appropriate buffer between development and open space.

This is a good initiative and could provide the sort of rationale that should underpin the formation of buffer zones in future developments, such as those proposed in north Gungahlin. But it seems to me that it would be a great shame not to take this opportunity to benefit from this thinking and incorporate a sound and well thought out buffer zone between the new north Watson development and the Watson woodlands. This would make the Watson instance a far better example to use as a case study in the way that the minister suggested when he announced the development of a management plan for the area.

An increased buffer would also have other benefits, quite apart from demonstrating a positive and properly working partnership between government and community over development, conservation and environmental management. It would also allow the preservation of a more representative section of grassy woodland in that there would be a grassland border.

It is true that the original native grasslands have been degraded by grazing and other activity and that the area we are talking about is not currently in the best environmental shape. But the area is eminently restorable, and the community group is ready and willing to restore the native grasses and other elements of the understorey in partnership with government. Of course, the cattle grazing that has been permitted in this area is an issue in this regard. While it continues, it prevents this restoration from beginning. With the drought, though, the dam became empty and the cattle were removed, providing a very good opportunity to keep the cattle off so that the restoration work can begin in earnest.

The north Watson site provides an opportunity to preserve a now rare example of the interface of woodland and natural grassland in north Canberra. The proposed fence line is close to the lowest existing trees on the site and leaves virtually no example of treeless grassland along that edge of the site. With the buffer that I am proposing, we could expect the natural tree line to recover downslope, to the north and west, to its original natural edge, leaving some adjacent grassland. The patches of grassland currently found between the large mature trees found on the rising ground to the east will also recover.

The experience of the Canberra bushfires is another reason why we should have this large buffer of grassland area that I am proposing. It would offer a far greater margin of safety than the 21.5 metres on the plans at present. Indeed, a larger buffer to Stirling Reserve should also be considered for the same reason. I find it surprising, after all the words that have been spoken in this place about the need to be cautious and careful about

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