Page 756 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 9 March 2005

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In accepting the recommendations of the Shaping our territory report and embracing the development of a government policy around those recommendations, it is clear that this government has placed the interests of long-term water quality and land management at the forefront of its decision-making processes. It is native trees, not pines, that are being planted along watercourses and on steep land. I am going to say that again for the benefit of any deaf people: it is native trees, not pines, that are being planted along watercourses and on steep land. Pines are being planted on the remaining land. In addition, the road network is being reduced and the remaining roads are being upgraded to reduce sediment movement into watercourses.

A great deal of effort has been put into reducing soil erosion and silt run-off in the burnt estate. However, it is important to recognise that the 2003 fires caused significant damage to the forests and soils within the lower Cotter catchment, and there is no easy solution to restoring such a large area of burnt forest. Work has to be undertaken and areas need to be disturbed in order to ensure that new trees are successfully established. In a major initiative to stabilise the area after the fires, ACT Forests aerially seeded 7,000 hectares of burnt plantation with grass seeds during the spring of 2003. This has provided good ground cover throughout burnt areas as an interim protection measure until the new forests are established. Where is the credit they deserve for that one? It never enters the conversation.

Mrs Dunne: By your own admission, you have sprayed the Cotter catchment with herbicides, so there is no point doing that.

MR HARGREAVES: You are talking to yourself, Mrs Dunne; I am not listening to you. All I can hear is a mere babble in the distance. ACT Forests has constructed special soil conservation structures in a number of places where significant soil erosion has been occurring after heavy rain. It is also routinely establishing silt netting and hay bail sediment traps on erosion-prone areas within the burnt areas of the estate. These measures have proved successful in trapping some of the silt loads. A major focus of roadworks in the forest is a reduction of soil erosion from access roads. Pipes and drainage systems throughout the road network have been improved to deliver water run-off to vegetated and stabilised areas.

This work needs to continue for some time to get the standard of all roads in the catchment up to the level that is expected in water catchments. The reforestation program commenced in 2003 with about 800,000 seedlings being planted within the catchment. The drought prevented further plantings during the winter of 2004, other than on small areas that could be watered by hand. This year about one and a half million seedlings—a mixture of natives and pines—have been cultivated, with planting over the 2005 winter season. ACT Forests has established a very strong regreening partnership with scientific experts, academics and organisations like Greening Australia, to ensure that the reforestation program achieves the best possible outcomes. This partnership was set up for three purposes:

a forum for expert input into decisions about planting of pines and natives in the lower Cotter catchment;

opportunities to engage the community in reforestation programs; and

coordination of long-term monitoring and research within the catchment.

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