Page 1029 - Week 04 - Tuesday, 15 March 2005

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Valley Band Inc is very proud of its band program and looks forward to sharing its special year with the residents of the Tuggeranong Valley and the Canberra region.

Shaping our territory

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (4.34): In the Canberra Times on Tuesday 8 March this year, Sandy Hollway, chair of the shaping our territory working group, stated:

… rarely does good public policy come out of sniping, bickering, misrepresentation and emotion. We should be led instead by dispassionate expert analysis of options, costs and benefits.

He also stated:

The Steering Committee wrestled intensively with the re-vegetation options in the catchment.

We are all aware that this issue of catchment management has been burbling away for a little while and there is no doubt that this is a very important conversation that we are having. I agreed with the Chief Minister when he acknowledged last week in this Assembly that this is a complex and difficult issue. I do not agree, however, with this ongoing slanging match about which scientist is right or which one is wrong or which one did not speak up earlier and which one is speaking up now.

We need to be building our community of scientists, not assisting in the setting up of divisions. There are enough of these already, as scientists compete for the dollars they need for research grants. Indeed, science is most useful when it is collaborative and scientific advice is most useful when scientists can advise governments without fear of politicisation or backlash.

Nor do I think we should just concur that a consensus was reached and so it is all okay. Most of us know that, in the process of reaching consensus, some opinions hold more weight than others. Often, those who do not get heard, or whose viewpoints are not considered in the resulting decisions, feel aggrieved. If the process is not done well, they may speak up later on outside that process. I think that is what we have seen happening.

Yes, this is a complex issue, and we have an obligation to get it right, not just for ourselves but also for future generations. I am told it will be 20 years before that catchment is okay again and that is only if we do not have any severe water, rain or fire events. It is important that we understand why we choose certain paths. I suggest that the appropriate way forward would be to have all the information on the table. Similarly, it may be useful if scientists involved, of all persuasions, could come together to discuss their various issues and concerns.

I think it would be very pleasing if the government could facilitate that as part of the process of developing a community of scientists, with the potential result of better-managed catchments.

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