Page 2265 - Week 07 - Thursday, 23 June 2005

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Gosh, it has happened again; here I am talking about drought and water restrictions and it is raining. It is ironic. It seems to be one of the things that I do a lot. If you end up talking about drought and water restrictions, it rains.

Mr Hargreaves: You ought to do it more often.

MRS DUNNE: I will spend as many opportunities as I can talking about the mismanagement by this government of the water restrictions regime and the impact that that has had in the ACT.

Mr Hargraves is saying we are talking down the city by saying it is a filthy rat hole and things like that. No, that is not the case, Mr Hargreaves. What we are saying is that this once beautiful city, this still in many ways beautiful city, is not as beautiful as it could be or as it used to be because of the mismanagement of this government. I have had the privilege of spending the last six weeks travelling with my family in Europe. It is true that in many ways the approaches to Canberra far outweigh, in terms of amenity, the approaches to almost any other city in the world that you could imagine. We have a beautiful city.

But it was interesting to come back after six weeks. I know that it is winter and the leaves are off many trees. I was stunned, upon returning to Canberra after six weeks, to see the decline in trees around Canberra, to see the decline in the trees in my street and in my suburb, to see the decline, the near-death situation and the dead trees on Northbourne Avenue. Many of them are clearly on the way out and will be dead in the very near future. Look at our major avenues, particularly the native trees, not the deciduous trees, and the impact that we are having here.

I cannot count the number of times that I have raised with members and the staff of the Department of Urban Services in estimates, in inquires, in hearings and in briefings in my office, the measures that they could be taking to ensure that our street trees and the trees on our blocks, our urban forest that the government is so keen to uphold in the tree protection legislation, are saved. But they will do nothing about it. See how many street trees there are.

I have spoken at length about the asset that we are running down in this territory: 60 years of growth of oak trees, pin oak trees, a range of deciduous trees, elms and a whole lot of other trees that are 60, 70, 80 years old, which are dying in this drought. It is all right for Mr Hargreaves to say, “When the drought is over we will go back and replant the trees,” but it will take 60 or 80 years to get the urban amenity back because you have been profligate for two or three years. The people of Canberra will be paying the price long after you and I are dead, Mr Hargreaves, because we will not have the street trees that we currently take for granted and take as part of our city. It has been said to me—and I have said over and over—that we are downgrading our investment, we are depreciating our investment in the city, because of the lack of capacity of the government to think laterally about how we might water our trees.

I am concerned about the fact that every homeowner in the ACT has lost thousands of dollars of their investment in their garden by losing their lawns, small shrubs and things like that. Those things are relatively expendable. But the large trees, the trees that have

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