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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 9 Hansard (27 August) . . Page.. 3246 ..

Tree preservation in Belconnen

MS DUNDAS (12.01): I move:

That the ACT Government negotiate with the owners of the site at the corner of Nettlefold Street and Coulter Drive a land swap or suitable compensation to ensure the preservation of the magnificent trees on that site.

Mr Speaker, woodlands and grasslands across Australia are among our most endangered of communities. They were very easy communities for pastoralists to move their stock into at the time of European settlement because of their open structure. Most woodland communities were largely cleared in the first 50 years after European settlers arrived in each region. As a result, many of our woodland communities are endangered today.

In the ACT and surrounding regions, a number of woodland and grassland communities are teetering on the brink of extinction, with the yellow box/red gum grassy woodland being the most endangered. Six bird species associated with this depleted woodland type are also listed as endangered. Although most of the ACT is a national park or a nature reserve, less than 1 per cent of remaining endangered woodland is protected across the ACT and surrounding regions, and in rural areas this community is suffering from tree decline because of drought, fire, insects and limited opportunity for regeneration.

Our Minister for Environment has boasted that the ACT is two-thirds bushland, implying that we don't really need to worry about conserving our native vegetation. But this overall figure masks the uneven removal of particular vegetation types. Environment ACT itself acknowledges that only 25 per cent of good-quality remnant woodland remains in the ACT.

The threatened species action plan prepared by the Conservator of Flora and Fauna identifies a need to protect off-reserve remnants of yellow box/red gum woodland with some of the original understorey remains because this community is already so severely depleted. The need for public education of the value of these threatened woodlands has also been identified by the conservator's report. Considering the fragmented nature of the remaining woodland, each patch is significant.

Block 12 of section 2, on the corner of Nettlefold Street and Coulter Drive in Belconnen, is a patch of this endangered yellow box red/gum grassy woodland and supports trees of between 100 and 300 years of age. It is a prominent site that is seen by thousands of Canberrans every day as they travel up Coulter Drive to connect with William Hovell Drive.

I acknowledge that, under the approved development plan for the site, some of the older trees are to be retained. Two red gum trees that are about 200 years old are earmarked for removal, as are some yellow box trees of around 100 years of age. I just want to pause and think about that for a moment. These trees have been there for longer than the ACT has been in existence. They have survived the development that has gone on around them. They have provided a bit of the bush capital in the Belconnen trades area for generations of Canberrans. Yet we are now looking at their removal and destruction.

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