Page 3835 - Week 12 - Wednesday, 19 October 2005

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and workhouses. Make a stand for the Canberra community. The Stanhope government stands firm for what is fair and just.

Motion agreed to.

Environment Protection (Fire Hazard Reduction) Amendment Bill 2005

Debate resumed from 29 June 2005, on motion by Mrs Dunne:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR HARGREAVES (Brindabella—Minister for Disability, Housing and Community Services, Minister for Urban Services and Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (11.43): The government does not support Mrs Dunne’s proposed amendments to the Environment Protection Act 1997. The proposed amendments and Mrs Dunne’s explanatory statement indicate a lack of understanding of the current circumstances of environmental authorisations for hazard reduction burning. In essence, the proposed amendments address problems that no longer exist.

In the past, approvals were granted to conduct hazard reduction burns for very specific areas and for specific times. These approvals had conditions that considerably restricted hazard reduction burns. Approval of specific burning operations was cumbersome and restricted operational practices. If these circumstances persisted today, Mrs Dunne’s amendments might have some logic.

With the introduction of the Environment Protection Act 1997, hazard reduction burn approvals were simplified, and by the year 2000 major ACT government land managers had ongoing approvals that allowed hazard reduction burns, without the need for individual burns to be individually approved by the EPA. The approvals, in the form of environmental authorisations, had conditional guidelines, such as smoke management guidelines for prescribed burning that restricted or prevented burns under a range of conditions. This included conditions under which there would be a major smoke impact on the community or when atmospheric conditions were such that fire behaviour would make burning off unsafe.

Following the January 2003 bushfires, the guidelines, together with so many of our then standard operating procedures, were reviewed and amended. These amendments were made in consultation with ACT Health and the land managers, including ACT Forests, Parks and Conservation and Canberra Urban Parks and Places, to achieve maximum operational freedom for land managers in hazard reduction burning.

Indeed, as members know, the whole of the ACT’s bushfire prevention strategy and capability has been upgraded and improved since 2003. New legislation provided for the Emergency Services Authority to prepare a strategic bushfire management plan for the ACT. The strategic plan calls for land managers to prepare operational plans describing how the strategic plan will be implemented. The operational plan, once approved by the Emergency Services Authority, sets in train a very broad suite of bushfire prevention measures, including mowing and slashing of grass, physical removal of woody fuels, fire

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