Page 4315 - Week 13 - Thursday, 17 November 2005

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Much work had been done and considerable public expenditure had been sunk into Tidbinbilla and it is a real shame that all of that work was undone in January 2003, when the wildfire raged through the valley. In estimates the other day we heard that Rock Valley station is unrestorable. Nil Desperandum seems to be restorable, but much of the historic value of those places will be lost. The fire resulted in a huge loss of wildlife and a huge loss of infrastructure and what we have been seeing since then is a rather expensive catch-up on where we were beforehand. Tidbinbilla plays an important part in the lives of the people of Canberra. It is a shame that, on this government’s watch, it was destroyed.

MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella) (3.36): Significant progress has been made in reinstating and enhancing infrastructure in the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve destroyed by the January 2003 bushfires. Not only is it being rebuilt; it will be better than before. This new Tidbinbilla will have a focus on conservation, recreation and education and will provide visitors with an enhanced natural experience. The creation of enriching and meaningful experiences is the key to success and this requires a commitment to quality in all aspects of the design, construction and implementation of all that is done within the reserve. Tidbinbilla will become the gateway or portal to the protected areas of the ACT where visitors can gain a deep understanding and appreciation of our natural world that will encourage them to explore into our parks and reserves.

Karin MacDonald has spoken about the process our government has used to ensure that what is rebuilt at Tidbinbilla will be successful and appreciated by the Canberra community. Already, visitor numbers at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve have been increasing since the January 2003 bushfires, with 74,000 visitors in 2003-04 growing to 97,000 visitors in 2004-05. This is a clear indication of the community’s engagement with the reserve and the importance that this area holds.

To date, the works that have been undertaken include the reopening of walking tracks throughout the reserve, such as Church Rock, Hanging Rock and Fishing Gap, where patronage is occurring. On existing walking tracks, new bridges, steps and interpretive signage have been installed. The koala/wet forest wildlife enclosure and walking tracks have been rebuilt and reopened. This area houses Lucky, our mascot from the fires and a very popular attraction. Joining Lucky is an injured New South Wales koala and six animals from Kangaroo Island. The Kangaroo Island koalas were desexed before arrival, as our aim is to develop a breeding colony using local species.

The koala area has a state-of-the-art perimeter fence constructed to prevent predators entering the enclosure while also providing a natural habitat where the animals do not require supplementary feeding. The walking trails provide an intimate and engaging environment through the enclosure that allows for the sighting of animals. The popular Ribbon Gum amphitheatre within the wetlands enclosure has been rebuilt and the Canberra Youth Theatre held a school holiday production at this venue. Ms Karin MacDonald and I attended that. This amphitheatre will be incorporated into the nature discovery zone for which design is under way.

Operational facilities to support the animal breeding programs have been reinstated. The perimeter and enclosure fencing throughout the animal enclosures has been repaired and replaced in anticipation of animals being released within a secure predator-free

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