Page 736 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 8 March 2005

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I was certainly happy to try to assist them. Last Friday there was some media coverage of their plight. It now seems that part of their immediate problem might be solved in that at least they have been offered an oval somewhere else in the Kaleen area—whether it is suitable or not is another question; it may be—but, even if it is, they are, obviously, very keen to go back as soon as possible to their home ground, which they have had for 14 years and which they would certainly want, at the bare minimum, to use for next year.

It raises the question of whether the government is really listening about how, in a difficult situation—which we do have with the drought—to prioritise and indeed adequately water sufficient ovals to ensure that most sport, especially junior sport, can continue. I think it was late last year that category 3 ovals, which are many of the district ovals where kids actually play sport and some of the lesser competitions are also held, were taken off the watering list. That was after, I think, the category 4 ovals, of which there are about 40 or 50 hectares, had been taken off the list, too. No-one is really complaining about that, but the category 3 ovals caused junior clubs considerable concern. And the North Canberra Bears is a classic case in point.

This is despite the fact that the government has been told by experts like Keith McIntyre and indeed another expert whom I am seeing tomorrow—I am more than happy to share his expertise with the government—that, for as little as about 5 per cent of stage 3 outdoor watering, you could water these additional 57 hectares where so much junior sport especially is actually being played in Canberra. It is not really rocket science. It would not be terribly difficult to do a little bit of juggling of how the outdoor watering is done to ensure that those 57 hectares can continue to be watered.

Surely, thousands of children being able to exercise and participate in good, healthy competitions or indeed just informal recreation on these ovals, is, and should be, a real priority for any government. The government certainly needs to look at its priorities there and does need to listen to experts.

In fact, Keith McIntyre, as I understand it, even revised his estimate of how much it would take and has indicated it might even be as low as 2 or 3 per cent on top of what is already done for outdoor watering at stage 3. And, of course, we are now at stage 2 for the winter anyway.

So I am concerned to see the government has not taken heed of experts. This has been an issue that the relevant ministers—I think one is now retired—have had before them since at least September 2003, when these restrictions were first placed on ovals. I certainly urge the government, in the interests especially of junior sport, in the interests of areas with growing need—not just Gungahlin, but throughout Canberra—and in the interests of clubs like the North Canberra Bears, to have a good, hard look at what they are doing and listen to the experts.

If they need to do a little bit of juggling—and I am advised by experts it is as little as I have said—then do it, so that thousands of kids will be able to participate, reasonably safely, in junior sport. Otherwise, you are going to get a small number of ovals very badly overused and it probably would be, as much as anything, a false economy.

MR SPEAKER: The member’s time has expired.

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