Page 3341 - Week 11 - Tuesday, 20 September 2005

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from each other by treeless urban environments, they do not do much for the wildlife of our city. The effects of habitat removal and fragmentation have been particularly noticeable for woodland birds. There has been a number of articles about the loss of small birds in Canberra. There are multiple reasons for that, but habitat is a large part of it. Although this bill only address the protection of individual trees, these trees can contribute to ameliorating edge effects by providing extra habitat trees in areas adjacent to our nature reserves and nature parks.

This bill, as it stands, does not entrench strong criteria for tree protection in legislation. The only way for this legislation to afford sensible environmental and ecological protection values is if the criteria are strong. At present, most of the criteria are to be determined by the minister as a notifiable instrument, not built in as regulations. The strength of this bill lies in the criteria. The criteria for making a tree protection direction, the tree protection criteria for declaring a tree management precinct and the tree protection criteria for tree registration and the cancellation of registration are integral to the structure and strength of this legislation.

Having these vital criteria only as notifiable instruments is just not good enough. It allows members of the Assembly and the public absolutely no room for input. As it stands, this legislation is only as strong as the ministerial declarations and conservator decisions. Of course, the other aspect of it is that decisions can be made which go against the government’s policies in other areas and, as Mrs Dunne has pointed out, it reduces the accountability and scrutiny available to people on this side of the house. I hope that the minister appreciates that the criteria are absolutely vital and I hope that he will support moves to make these criteria disallowable. We would also like to see some consultation on the draft criteria before they come into effect.

Having the schedule which we have with this bill of problem species which do not need to be treated as regulated trees, as currently occurs, is a very sensible approach, as we all know that not all trees are equal. On the same basis, to make tree protection legislation in the ACT take a slightly more ecological approach, it would be wise to incorporate a list of endemic species of importance. In that way, people could err on the side of caution and protect species indigenous to our area, even if they are too small and young to be regulated trees, thereby helping to conserve our local flora and fauna.

One bird that has become a problem over time is the currawong. We have found that the currawong, which had traditional migration patterns of spending time down the coast in winter and coming up to Canberra in summer as various native species flowered and produced food for them, are now inclined to winter in Canberra and are here at the beginning of spring, when other birds are nesting. As we all know, the currawong is one of the species of birds responsible for destroying eggs and nestlings and thus adding to the erosion of our indigenous species. This is very much related to the way we have changed the vegetation in Canberra. However, pest plant species, which they thrive on and which should not be included for protection, as recognised in the land act, have failed to be integrated into the Tree Protection Bill.

In terms of the criteria for tree management precincts, we would like to see a more integrated ecological approach than is evident in the draft criteria. We would like to see areas within 300 metres of a nature park or reserve and especially areas adjoining

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