Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 12 Hansard (Wednesday, 19 October 2005) . . Page.. 3836 ..
trail improvements, equipment upgrades, training and, of course, hazard reduction burning.
The smoke management guidelines for prescribed burning were amended to allow ACT government land managers to undertake hazard reduction burns and consult with the Environment Protection Authority only when a major smoke impact on the community is expected. In considering this impact, the Environment Protection Authority is required to have regard to the requirements set out in section 3 of the act, which include protecting the environment and preventing adverse risks to human health.
The land manager prepares a burn plan, which must be approved by the Emergency Services Authority. The authority assesses the plan to ensure that, under the conditions of temperature, wind and fuel moisture levels proposed for the burn, there is minimum risk of the fire getting out of control. On the day, given that the Emergency Services Authority’s conditions are satisfied, the land manager must also follow the smoke guidelines approved by the Environment Protection Authority. By complying with the conditions set by the Emergency Services Authority and adhering to the smoke management guidelines, the land manager can be confident that the burn will be safe and will have minimum impact on human health. We have placed the decision-making power in the hands of those most appropriate to make the decision in the circumstances.
Mrs Dunne’s proposals do not encompass what we have already achieved. Indeed, they risk a backward step in that those responsible for managing the land and the fire risk associated with it would be required to make decisions about the impact of smoke on public health and safety. Mrs Dunne would have the wrong people making the decisions. We have the right people making the decisions. The land managers make decisions within parameters set by the Environment Protection Authority and agreed to by ACT Health, to ensure public health issues are integrated with safety considerations. Furthermore, it is critical that the Emergency Services Authority has final say on the risk of the hazard burn getting out of control.
This proposed amendment to our environment protection legislation would undo years of good work and cooperation between land managers, the Emergency Services Authority and the Environment Protection Authority. Far from reducing the risk of bushfires to the Canberra community, Mrs Dunne’s proposed amendments have the potential to increase the risk. The government cannot support Mrs Dunne’s bill.
DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (11.49): I do not support this bill either. The Environment Protection Act already allows ample opportunity for authorities to burn off. The act as it stands includes restrictions to protect residents of the ACT from respiratory illnesses, for good reason, and these are what Mrs Dunne wishes to weaken with this bill.
First, I oppose this bill due to its smoke pollution consequences, and, second, I oppose the assumption behind it, which is that hazard reduction burning is a priority over other means of fuel reduction strategies.
The objects of the Environment Protection Act clearly state the importance of reducing pollution, maintaining environmental quality and preventing adverse risks to human health. Unfortunately, state of the environment reports repeatedly show concerning levels of airborne particulates in Canberra. This bill writes off smoke pollution merely as