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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 11 Hansard (21 October) . . Page.. 3848 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

improve the conservation and recreation values of the ridge since 1991 and, in fact, received an award recently for their work. They are, naturally, concerned that cattle will destroy much of this work and that there has been no consultation with them or scientific evidence given to them which shows that grazing will have an impact on fire danger.

In fact, a senior CSIRO researcher, Dr Joe Walker, who is not a member of this group, has added his voice, saying that in his professional view the grazing option will not reduce the fire risk to most houses at the urban fringe under any fire conditions and, indeed, can be described as environmental vandalism. He has pointed out that the fuel load reduction by cattle grazing on the grassy slopes is likely to have an impact on fire behaviour only if the paddocks are flogged to zero grass, that fencing will be very expensive, and that the area between the houses and the reserve will have grass as a fire break and dry grass in this interface is more likely to create a problem than the grass in the paddocks.

He has pointed out that the fuel load on the hill behind his house was close to zero at the time of the January 18 fires and had no impact on the firestorm that hit his house and that the fire did not enter his property from the hills that carried the grass fire. He has pointed out that grass fires have occurred on the hills several times over the past 30 years and caused few problems regarding fire control. He has also pointed out at length-I will not read out all of it now, but I am happy to give the minister this document-that it is very important for environmental reasons to allow soils to recover after fire.

My question is: can the minister explain exactly why this decision was taken and can he table the analysis that was used to inform the decision to put cattle on Cooleman Ridge?

MR STANHOPE: Mr Speaker, I take the opportunity to clarify a previous answer in response to Mrs Burke's question, if I may. As members know, the cabinet did receive a briefing during the week prior to the fire. I excluded that from the answer I gave, assuming that it was not what Mrs Burke was referring to. The cabinet did receive a briefing during the week and I responded to Mr Stefaniak in relation to that. I did not wish to mislead members about that. I assumed that Mrs Burke was asking for any document over and above the briefing which cabinet received. I can only answer for myself. I did not receive any such written brief. I repeat that I was concerned that I may have misled you.

I am sorry, Ms Tucker, I do not know the technical detail and I am not sure of the analyses that may have been undertaken in relation to the role which cattle or any other grazing animal has in bushfire behaviour. I understand the concerns of residents of the Cooleman Ridge area in relation to the significant work that has been undertaken historically to restore Cooleman Ridge. Over the years, I have been a regular visitor to Cooleman Ridge and I was well aware of the significant work that the Cooleman Ridge park care group had done there.

I have had discussions with members of the Emergency Services Bureau around the role or capacity of cattle or other grazing animals-included in that, of course, are sheep and kangaroos-to keep grass levels low, with an assumption or belief that the reduction of grass loads in that way will inhibit fire. I am no great expert in bushfires or fire behaviour and cannot pretend to be, so I will take aspects of your question on notice,

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