Page 1592 - Week 05 - Thursday, 8 May 2008

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MR CORBELL: You have the plan. I beg your pardon. The inquiry, as agreed by the committee, is into the consultation process, rather than into the draft plan itself. This, I think, raises some broader questions about how the opposition conduct their business in this place. They show a most undignified and graceless approach when the government agrees to issues that they want to see addressed. Of course, it really highlights that it is driven more by the politics of the situation than it is driven by a genuine desire to have an X or Y outcome. I think the approach adopted by Mr Gentleman today is to be commended. It highlights the government’s willingness to respond on these matters.

Of course, these are issues of great significance and interest to the Canberra community. Namadgi is a very important asset for our community and one which the government has great regard for and has made considerable investments in. Since the devastating fires of 2003 the government has invested millions and millions of dollars in the rehabilitation of this incredibly priceless asset for the Canberra community in terms of its social and human heritage, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, as well as its environmental significance.

I note Mr Pratt’s comments in relation to fire management. The fire management regime now in place in Namadgi national park is one which I think will definitely stand us well into the future. I receive detailed briefings from the ACT Bushfire Council and the ACT Emergency Services Agency on these matters and it is quite clear to me that the improvements in access, in particular, have been very significant in ensuring a timely response to bushfires in those areas of Namadgi national park. The upgrade of fire trails has been a very important piece of work undertaken by Parks, Conservation and Lands and the rangers that are part of that service and by the ESA. We now have significantly improved access; indeed, it is a matter identified as a satisfactory outcome by the Bushfire Council in some of their advice to me.

The other issue, of course, is about improving access to those areas that still are not able to be reached through fire trails. In very mountainous areas trails are not going to be able to get you to 100 per cent of the possible ignition points. To address that issue the government has invested significantly in remote area firefighting team capacity, particularly via helicopter deployment, so that we can get remote area firefighting teams to those locations very promptly.

We have been tested on that on a number of occasions over the past couple of years. Our RAFT teams were employed, for example, not in the ACT but in very similar terrain in parts of New South Wales further to the west of Namadgi around the Tumut location with a very high level of success. What this, I think, highlights is that the remote area firefighting capacity we have now put into place is available and ready to be deployed to protect Namadgi national park should an ignition occur in the national park itself.

We have also responded very well to fires within Namadgi. A recent fire in the far south of Namadgi down in the Mount Clear area was able to be responded to very promptly during the last fire season. This was in an area of the park that did not burn during the 2003 fire episode. That was able to be dealt with very promptly by both our

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