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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 9 Hansard (27 August) . . Page.. 3272 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

You could throw around all sorts of trivia in terms of what has happened over the 400 years, but it is a very significant tree for this particular region and that is something we need to take into account. We are not saying that, because there are some significant trees there, the people who want to build there cannot have access to somewhere else to build. The government should look at an obvious site just over the road with the same zoning which could quite conceivably take what is proposed and preserve a very significant tree and several other very significant trees and a not unpleasant corner of Belconnen in the industrial area.

I think that Ms Dundas was correct in bringing such a motion before the Assembly. I think the motion is worthy of serious consideration and support. I do not think it is impossible to effect a win/win situation here for everyone concerned.

MS DUNDAS (3.31), in reply: I thank members of this Assembly for participating in this debate today. It has become quite a heated debate. Protecting our environment does raise a lot of emotional issues for people. There are some points that I would like to pick up on.

It was a shame to see the government attacking the opposition for changing their mind on a decision. Yes, we are looking for certainty and we are looking for probity and accountability, but the ability to say that you have made a mistake and would like to correct it is a very important one, especially in politics. People should not be attacked for seeing wisdom and taking on new information.

I think that it is important to discuss the community concerns about the site that we are discussing. As has been mentioned, there has been a very strong community campaign. The community are feeling disenfranchised-a word that the community themselves have used-about the way the government has dealt with their concerns on this issue. I find it quite disappointing that the government, which said that it was going to be accountable and responsive, has ignored the concerns raised by the community so far.

I hope that this motion will be successful today and show to the government that there are members of this Assembly who are willing to listen to the community, who are willing to act on behalf of the community, and the government should take that on board. What we want is the long-term survival of these trees. The Commissioner for the Environment has said that a land swap may be the only way to ensure the long-term survival of these trees.

We have put forward a positive solution. The minister raised concerns about the high value of any land with which we might be swapping it. Perhaps a small price needs to be paid to protect this remnant woodland, these very significant trees. He has also said that it might reduce opportunities for commercial interests. I have to disagree there. There has been a lot of talk about what is going on in the Belconnen industrial area, the trade centre there, and whether it needs to be redeveloped. Most of the ideas that I have heard have not touched upon this block of land or the blocks around it. They have focused more on more higher density development in the already built-up areas. I understand that urban consolidation is one of the principles of the spatial planning process that we have been looking at, as opposed to just spreading everything out.

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