Page 3391 - Week 11 - Tuesday, 20 September 2005

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It is interesting, in the context of the comments that have been made by the Liberal Party, that their major concern and their reason for refusing to support this legislation is that it is too draconian. One of the fears that the government had in facing the electorate and the chamber with the new legislation was that we would be accused of going soft on tree protection. Far from it. Here we are being slated for being too tough, too draconian on a scheme that essentially we are introducing to ameliorate some of the, we believe, unintended harsh consequences of the interim scheme. The legislation we are debating today—and this is obviously not understood by anyone on the opposition side or within the Liberal Party—ameliorates unintended harsh consequences of the interim tree legislation scheme introduced by the last Liberal government. This scheme ameliorates the harshest aspects.

This scheme that we are debating today is designed to ensure that people going about the normal enjoyment of their homes, their land, their backyards and front yards, their streetscape, do have some capacity to control particularly dangerous trees or trees that impact severely on their amenity or their capacity to enjoy their homes. That is what this scheme does. It seeks to balance the aspirations that people have to be able to enjoy, in safety, their homes and to deal and live with their particular house, their front yard, their street verge, in a way that enhances their enjoyment of their homes and does not endanger them, their properties or their families. That is the balance, on the one side.

The balance that we are seeking to achieve is to protect significant trees, which will be registered trees, and to protect particular landscapes, urban forests, whatever you might describe as the overarching treescape of the territory. That is the legislative design inherent in the bill we are discussing today.

As I say, you would not know, from the contributions made from the other side, that we are generally ameliorating the harshest, the most inflexible and the most administratively complex and difficult aspects of the existing scheme; we are toning it down; we are making it workable; we are removing the hard edges; we are allowing people a greater say, a greater autonomy and a greater independence in relation to trees around their own homes in particular; and we are smoothing the administrative arrangements in relation to, particularly, greenfields development sites and other development areas within the territory. Nevertheless, we are ensuring that we do protect that full range of significant trees, as defined, across the whole of Canberra.

In that context, we have created a hierarchy of trees. We will go through the fairly significant process of identifying, tree by tree, street by street, suburb by suburb, significant trees. And we will register them—a legal regime designed to protect to the utmost, within reasonable limits prescribed within the legislation, those registered trees. We will look ultimately at the requirements of designating those tree management areas to deal with a treescape as such; an urban forest which might be under particular pressure or be of particular significance; a significant part of the essential tree landscape of individual streets, suburbs and areas of Canberra. We recognise how important it is that we monitor and continue to assess the health and welfare of those urban forests, so called.

In that context, it is very pleasing that the Department of Urban Services has sought expert advice from the Australian National University on how to quantify the economic

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