Page 753 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 9 March 2005
quality and water availability on those sites. Canberra is manifestly not a good site for pine plantations.
I am not going to go into the ecological evidence against the planting of any monoculture—pines or eucalypt—because it is exhaustive. It is out there and a lot of it has been addressed in the Canberra Times in recent weeks. I think the quality of that writing has been quite high. I am very glad that the debate is out there and Ms Beeby is brave enough to continue, even though she is being subjected to some not particularly good comments in this place.
Mrs Dunne has addressed my concerns about the expert process, which resulted in a decision to replant pines, and substantively I agree with her analysis of the section in Shaping our territory. There was a suggestion that I was proposing that enlarging the Cotter dam, which is one of the three options put out by Actew, would drown the catchment. That is not what I was saying. I was saying that if we are enlarging the Cotter dam, then that indicates an even greater reliance on that catchment and therefore a stronger argument for managing that area as a catchment.
Here I want to focus on two issues. The first is the pre-eminence of managing our catchment for water quality and quantity, and the second is the process by which we devise that management plan. I will support the motion—I do not suppose that is any surprise. It is very clear that the recent work by ACT Forests has had an impact on water quality. This impact was such that Environment ACT ordered ACT Forests to stop work.
I believe we are all in general agreement that the key objective in the Cotter catchment is protecting water quality and quantity. That is not the argument. It is incredibly important, therefore, that we understand the rationale for the decision to predominantly replant with pines rather than to manage the area as a catchment, which will involve diverse plantings of diverse species, but basically looking to a return to the state it was in before we started mucking around with it so much. I support some form of review by the Assembly to consider this matter. I will be putting to the public accounts committee a suggestion that we do a broad cost benefit analysis of options for managing the catchment.
The ACT government has indicated that a comprehensive business case was prepared after the January 2003 bushfires, and subsequently independently reviewed, before the decision was made to replant significant sections of the Cotter catchment with pines. We asked for those documents yesterday. We have been assured that they are being looked for and that we will be given copies of them. Today we had, in my office, a copy of the insurance policy. I have not yet had a chance to look at that, but I thank the Chief Minister’s office for that.
It is absolutely vital that decisions about replanting these catchments are based on the best possible knowledge about maintaining water quality and quantity in the catchments. At the moment, there is a range of divergent views being aired publicly. We do not have the knowledge about what was really said, we rely on third case reporting in the case of the Canberra Times and, as Mr Stanhope has just mentioned, he has a number of reports that I am eagerly awaiting.
The fact is that a lot of evidence goes through—a lot of views were processed in it—the sausage machine of reporting for this non-urban study. It may very well be—I believe it