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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 11 Hansard (22 October) . . Page.. 3925 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

was taken and can he table the analysis that was used to inform the decision?

(2) Will you ask Environment ACT to delay construction of the fence tomorrow and, instead, consult with the park care group and other interested members of the community and, as well, allow the Assembly time to see the advice that you will be tabling?

The answer to the member's question is as follows: the decision to temporarily introduce cattle to parts of Cooleman Ridge was made because of the growth of introduced grasses in the area. Site inspections conducted on 15 October revealed wild oat and grass growth over one metre in height. The density of wild oats is higher this year than usual, presumably as a result of the fire knocking back competitive species. It is expected that the current moist conditions will result in grass up to six feet high, presenting a fuel load considerably higher than usual when these grasses dry off in November. Some residents expressed concern at the potential of this material to result in a bushfire hazard in the area this summer.

Officers of Environment ACT inspected the site and agreed that the fire fuel level would be unacceptably high if some removal was not undertaken. The area contains a proliferation of large rocks and some areas have a steep incline. Consequently, measures such as slashing are not feasible, and grazing is the preferred method of fuel reduction. The ridge will be fenced and subdivided into relatively small parcels. Those containing vegetation of higher conservation value will not be grazed. In other areas grazing will be in place only until the fuel loads have been sufficiently reduced.

It should be noted that grazing has been used on Cooleman Ridge in the past and that this method of fuel management is successfully used in other areas of Canberra such as Red Hill and the Gungahlin grassland reserves. Cattle grazing will not be undertaken in areas of high conservation value and the cattle will be removed when fuel levels have been reduced. Cattle may be reintroduced as needed on a seasonal basis. The proposed grazing will be closely monitored to achieve the fuel reduction and protect the conservation and recreational values of the ridge. As suggested, a monitoring program will be established with the Cooleman Ridge Park Care Group Inc.

I am advised that the grazing of this area will have an effect on bushfire behaviour and contribute positively to fire crew suppression efforts. As suggested by Dr Joe Walker, Environment ACT will also be undertaking work to reduce fuels adjacent to residences where slashing is possible.

In relation to consultation, on 16 October Environment ACT contacted the local park care group about the proposal. An email message was sent to group members and an on-site meeting was held on 21 October after a meeting on 19 October failed to eventuate. Group members and Parks and Conservation Services research and monitoring officers attended the meeting on 21 October.

After discussing the issues, and an inspection was carried out of the areas proposed for grazing and those to be excluded from grazing, the majority of members from the park care group agreed to the proposal. The main opposition came from two members, one of whom has subsequently requested that should the proposed grazing go ahead, there be

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