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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 10 Hansard (25 September) . . Page.. 3699 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

of Lyons. I do not have that opinion with me. It was tabled yesterday. It was quite explicit. It was from Mr John Nicholson, an acknowledged national expert in relation to issues around fire hazard and the particular danger presented by different sorts of trees.

The advice was quite stark. In that opinion, Mr Nicholson referred to his anxiety and the level of his concern and alarm at the co-location of blue gum trees and dwellings. Blue gum trees were identified by Mr Nicholson as a species with enormous potential to spray embers over significant distances in the sorts of circumstances experienced in Canberra on January 18.

In the face of the advice received by Environment ACT and on the basis of internal expertise-let's not forget that Environment ACT has within its ranks a group of highly skilled and dedicated professionals, people who have professional expertise in relation to forests, park management and, indeed, fires-the considered opinion of Environment ACT and of officers within Environment ACT, reinforced by the expert opinion of Mr John Nicholson, a national expert in relation to these issues, is that the co-location of blue gum trees and dwellings presents too great a potential risk to the lives and property of those residents and of that property to be countenanced; it simply represents too great a risk.

I have to say in relation to the debate around hazard reduction and around the attitude that has been adopted by some in relation to the devastation that we experience on 18 January that, quite frankly, I am surprised that just eight months later, in the face of four deaths, the destruction of 500 homes and a damages bill of $300 million, we are questioning the removal of trees that were identified by a nationally renowned expert and all the expertise within Environment ACT as damaging and potentially dangerous-

Mrs Cross: I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Chief Minister is getting off the subject. I asked him a specific question from residents. I did not ask him to debate whether we are making a judgment against him on the fires. We just want an answer, not waffle.

MR STANHOPE: It does surprise me that there is any doubt within the mind of anybody in this place at the actions being taken by Environment ACT in the face of their concern that to leave these trees in situ is not a reasonable thing to do in the context of the deaths, the destruction and the damage that we faced on January 18. I am determined, as I said yesterday, that we will not again face the same circumstances.

In the face of the advice that I have received from Environment ACT, on the basis of expert advice that they had, I am simply not prepared to put the lives of Canberrans or the safety of that property at risk. It is a simple and clear-cut matter for me. The advice is that the trees are dangerous. The advice is that there is nothing that can be done to make them less dangerous. The advice is that they should be removed, particularly in relation to Oakey Hill. There may be people in this place who think that it is worth taking the risk and want to take the chance, but I do not think so.

Mrs Cross: I take a point of order under standing order 62, Mr Speaker. The Chief Minister's response has become tedious and repetitious and it is really off the mark.

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