Page 755 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 9 March 2005

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MR HARGREAVES: It is really nice to see you in the chair anyway. Before I make a contribution to this debate in respect of ACT Forests, I make an observation for the record. This motion was put on the notice paper prior to 12.30 pm yesterday. At about a quarter to three—ten to three-ish—Mrs Dunne asked me a question in this chamber about the chemicals in that catchment area. She put on the notice paper—

Mrs Dunne: It was not on the notice paper until this morning.

MR HARGREAVES: It was on the notice paper prior to receiving an answer at question time. So I question whether this was all predetermined and just a big stunt or whether it was being just a tad precipitous. Being generous, I will suggest that it was a tad precipitate. The information Mrs Dunne sought will be provided today in the normal course. However, I can say that the detail about the constitution of the chemicals will be provided. It could have been done yesterday but I wanted to make sure the answer was complete. There was a second part to the question that I did not want considered in isolation.

The January 2003 bushfires destroyed 10,500 hectares of ACT forest plantations, of which 4,100 hectares are within the Cotter catchment. Following this devastation a massive clean-up and revegetation program was commenced by ACT Forests. I would like to commend staff from ACT Forests for their untiring efforts throughout this enormous and ongoing exercise.

I also want particularly to single out for praise Mr Tony Bartlett, manager of ACT Forests, who has done a fantastic job under enormous and unwarranted criticism, particularly from those opposite. I wish the record to show to Mr Bartlett that, in fact, he has my unqualified support. The staff, led by Mr Bartlett, have met the many challenges associated with the recovery with great professionalism and dedication.

Throughout the recovery operations, ACT Forests has been extremely conscious of the priority to be allocated to maintaining water quality. It has worked very closely with a range of experts to ensure that forests can be re-established in a manner that will ensure that water quality in the catchment will be much better in the future than it was before the fire. It has also implemented many measures to alleviate environmental impacts.

The Shaping our territory report, released in November 2003, has been the basis for the development of government policy concerning the management of the Cotter catchment. The recommendations put forward in the report were accepted by the government. At no time were the commercial interests of pine forestry put ahead of the interests of maintaining water quality, fire protection and sound land management. The report of the steering committee, chaired by Mr Sandy Hollway, stated:

The Steering Committee remains concerned that turbidity in the Cotter is likely to remain too high if pines are replanted throughout the catchment.

It continues:

Clean water is crucial to Canberra’s future, and is a first order priority in determining land use and land management in catchment areas.

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