Page 2777 - Week 09 - Thursday, 27 September 2007

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I do not have the exact dimension and the particular value of land that has been converted to nature reserve since we came to government but it is some thousands of hectares of inestimable value—certainly several hundred million dollars. The ACT is the only jurisdiction in Australia in which there has been an increase in the last decade in land conserved under a reserve system or in relation to which the ecological values have been protected. The ACT is now composed of 54 per cent nature reserve, against an Australian average of eight per cent, and against the next highest level of nature reserve within Australia, which I believe is Victoria, at somewhere around 15 per cent.

It is a reflection of the very history of the ACT that we are blessed to live in a place in which 54 per cent of the entire area of the jurisdiction is protected as nature reserve—as I say, against what I believe to be a national average across the states and the Northern Territory of less than 10 per cent. I believe I am right when I say that the next highest after the 54 per cent declaration in the ACT is around 15 per cent, in Victoria.

I would need to take specific advice in relation to the nature of the protective action that has been taken in the areas that Dr Foskey referred to. I am familiar with each of them but I cannot recall precisely the nature of the actions that have been taken or the stage that those actions are up to. The government is sincere in its commitment to the protection of each of these areas. Each of them has significant environmental and ecological values which we are determined to protect.

What is implicit in the question—and I may be doing Dr Foskey a disservice—is a suggestion that these particular areas and their environmental values can only be protected through declaration as a nature reserve. Of course that is not the case. The attitude which the government has taken to a number of areas—as I say, I will get specific advice in relation to each of the areas that Dr Foskey raises—is that conservators’ directions have been issued in a number of these sites. In cooperation with existing land managers, conservation regimes have been developed and implemented, and are monitored. It is a very successful collaborative arrangement which allows some ongoing maintenance or treatment of particular areas as both, say, a rural lease and a conservation zone that is receiving appropriate levels of care and conservation.

In relation to some of the areas, Dr Foskey, I know that is the approach that has been adopted. I am more than happy to provide specific advice on each of the areas that you have mentioned.

MR SPEAKER: Is there a supplementary question?

DR FOSKEY: Is the minister still committed to the protection of these areas or are we likely to see them being recycled as promises for the next election?

MR STANHOPE: Yes, the government is committed to the protection of each of these areas. As I said in answer to the question, I will provide detailed and specific advice on the steps that have been taken and the processes that we are engaging in in relation to each of those areas.

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