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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 5 Hansard (6 May) . . Page.. 1575 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

In relation to the other issues you raised around the Nettlefold Street trees, it is important that we understand the history of the matter. The Nettlefold Street site was sold around two or 21/2 years ago-indeed just before the last election. Perhaps one of the last actions of Mr Smyth as Minister for Planning at the time was the sale of that land, excepting that the Nettlefold Street site had been designated on the Territory Plan since 1976 as a site for commercial use. It was designated in 1976 for commercial use as part of the Belconnen industrial estate. It remained on the Territory Plan, designated as industrial, from 1976 until the previous government took the decision to sell it. It was sold for $560,000 to the owners of Farmers Bros Liquor Stores-proprietors with an establishment in Phillip, who sought to expand into Belconnen.

There are some significant trees on that site. There are certainly some beautiful trees. This is one of the issues that, over the years, we have become increasingly conscious of -and it is twofold. There is the importance of significant trees, particularly remnant yellow box red gum trees, the importance of trees as part of the amenity of our suburbs and also, in a planning sense, the difficulties around those blocks of land which are designated for development but are not developed immediately, and essentially for very good reason, until after a period of time. During those periods, residents become very attached to those little oases of open space such as the Nettlefold Street site has become.

It always was designated for industrial use. It was sold pursuant to that. The appropriate planning arrangements were pursued. There is concern among some residents that perhaps it was not done so openly or efficiently, but the law was complied with at every step of the way. A developer bought the block, paid his $560,000 and the money was spent. These are difficult issues. The money was spent on health, education and other aspects of the running of this city.

A range of issues has been raised in relation to Nettlefold Street. Why don't we buy it back? Why don't we find the $750,000 and just buy it back? Why don't we swap it for another block of land? Those are potentialities which this government is not prepared to pursue.

There was an assessment of each of the trees by an independent tree assessor, somebody independent of government. At the time of the first assessment it was Mr Robert Boden, an acknowledged expert in relation to trees in this town. It was Robert Boden who assessed the site in the first instance, pursuant to the legislation then applying. It was Robert Boden who approved the removal of the trees that it was decided could be removed to facilitate the development proposed on the block. Robert Boden is somebody who was independent of government. Not only that; he is a person in relation to trees and the environment of enormous standing in this community, whose standing cannot be gainsaid or questioned.

It was on the basis of Robert Boden's advice that the Conservator of Flora and Fauna at the time took the decision that certain trees could be removed or damaged. There was a question about the nature of the law that applied at the time and the process was redone. At the time it was redone there was a new independent tree assessor and that second independent tree assessor, operating under separate or different understandings, made the same decision that the trees be removed and that the development could proceed.

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