Page 2267 - Week 07 - Thursday, 23 June 2005

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A percentage for art, conditional on commercial development, has been promoted extensively in Canberra by arts groups, urban designers and the Greens for a number of years. Such an idea was discussed through the government’s discussion paper on public art that was released in August last year. The paper notes that the non-government sector, particularly building owners and developers, has greatly contributed to public art in Canberra in the past.

However, the commissioning of new works by the private sector in the ACT has declined in recent decades. This is not the case all around Australia. Other jurisdictions have had positive results with creative solutions for encouraging the private sector to invest in public art. I look forward to seeing the government’s response to this paper and its policy on private funding for public art.

It is impossible to talk about the urban environment in this place without mentioning graffiti. I notice that Mr Pratt certainly did. I just make a plea here that we realise that the majority of graffiti is done by young people and that anything that we do to discourage graffiti art and to remove it is not seen as an attack on young people’s culture. Of course, if we are going to follow that road of creating murals, then it is really important that young people are involved in the design and execution of those murals.

There are small and large steps that I believe the government must take when managing our parks and places, in line with ecological sustainability principles. Small steps that the government can take include a shift towards drought-resistant plantings in parks and on Canberra’s suburban streets and negotiating with the National Capital Authority to move away from the irrigated verges and water-hungry plantings on the major roads into and out of Canberra.

I am not feeling quite as pessimistic as Mrs Dunne about the future of some of the trees in the landscape. I do know that eucalypts do have an immense capacity to adapt, to die back in drought and to revive again in rain. So I would not be quite as pessimistic as Mrs Dunne in that regard. But I do feel, at the very least, we should be monitoring which species do spring back and which species seem not to recover from drought, because that should guide our future plantings.

In the lead-up to the election last year Mr Wood said that the ACT government would put recycling facilities in all public places, but I have not noticed the bins yet.

Large steps include accelerating the process of rehabilitating—and this is something I am pretty keen on—our old creeks and wetlands that were transformed into stormwater drains in the past. By “old” I mean former creeks and wetlands. I believe that the Sullivans Creek project provides a model for wetland reclamation. We need to remember that this was assisted with dollars from a private developer. So there is one way that we can work with private developers to improve our urban environment.

Of course, as a consequence of our historical clearing of woodlands in the ACT region, we now have a number of vulnerable and endangered species, including birds such as the brown tree-creeper and the hooded robin, which we could encourage with habitat in our streets and our parks.

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