Page 1308 - Week 04 - Tuesday, 5 April 2011

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land. We could change the Tree Protection Act so that the government also is accountable for its looking or not looking after our urban trees.

Recommendation 3 includes improving the legal protection of urban trees, and I think this would be an excellent idea. The commissioner goes through a number of specific points with that, which I do not really think I have time to repeat. But related to this is recommendation 4, which is for improved decision-making processes and practices for tree protection and management. Specifically, she is talking about establishing the ACT tree curator, who would largely replace, as far as trees are concerned, the role of the existing conservator.

I think this is probably a very positive step forward. One of the ways in which it will be positive is because the interaction between the tree conservator and ACTPLA is becoming a lot clearer and more straightforward. The proposal is that the tree curator would have a seat on ACTPLA’s major projects review group whenever there is a tree issue. Inherently we will have times when we have an issue between existing trees and possibly the best planning recommendations. But what the recommendation of the commissioner does is give us a better process, a better way forward for how we are going to resolve these inevitable conflicts.

She also says that we should be identifying trees on greenfield sites and that we should potentially be providing financial assistance to residents on this land who have registered trees. That is something which I think is definitely worthy of exploration. Also, I note the idea of having powers to issue on-the-spot fines to people who knowingly and wilfully damage a tree on public, unleased land. That seems inherently very reasonable to me.

Moving along here, because I am going to run out of time, recommendation 5 provides that we would have a national tree strategy and an ACT tree strategy—very reasonable ideas.

Recommendation 6 is possibly the most interesting of the recommendations because it actually goes through a lot of the cutting edge issues, particularly solar access, where there is not unanimity among the community as to what should be done. It is talking, firstly, about updating TAMS’ design standards, which I suspect everyone will agree with. I suspect the most controversial is 6G, which is talking about better managing solar access and protection and about the rights of trees and the rights of solar systems. Unfortunately, it does not talk much about access of sun into buildings. It has talked specifically about solar systems but it says that if the tree is already planted and you put a solar system up afterwards the tree should have priority; but if you have a solar system there first and then the tree is planted the tree would not have priority, and that we should look at the selection of trees so that we still have good solar access around households. This is something which I know has been a matter of considerable angst to the community and I am aware of a number of cases where people have felt very strongly that the street trees they have been provided with are not suitable species given where they have been planted in relation to the households.

I note also that the commissioner is talking about a sustainable re-use timber policy. I think that is great and I hope that this is not going to be code for energy from waste.

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