Page 435 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 13 February 2013
other states and jurisdictions. You can look at the debt problems in Queensland. You can look at the debt problems elsewhere in the world and what happens in places like Greece, Italy, France or perhaps the UK, where people outspend their budgets.
We know that the economic times are not good. We know that the future is unclear. Spending taxpayers’ money, the people of Canberra’s money, on things that essentially are not there for them as their priorities is somewhat reckless.
In conclusion, we are happy to support the motion. We are happy to acknowledge that the arboretum is there. But we now have a responsibility in opposition, as oppositions do, to hold the government to account, to make sure that all that they promised that it will be comes to fruition, to make sure that there is no more hard-earned money from ACT taxpayers spent than needs to be, that the indulgence that has been made is now used to maximum effect and that we get the best of out of it.
I thank Mr Gentleman for bringing this motion on today. I look forward to visiting the arboretum. I look forward to, as with anything else that we do as an opposition, making sure that the government is making the best use of the assets of the ACT, that belong to the people of the ACT, for the use of the ACT, and not turning this into some icon, some monument, to the memory of Jon Stanhope.
MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (10.25): I thank Mr Gentleman for bringing this motion to the Assembly today. I had the pleasure of attending the official opening of the arboretum a few weeks ago and I can say there was a clear sense of joy and enthusiasm for the arboretum amongst those in attendance. I think it was one of those master strokes; the dawn service timing of that and the conduct of it was an inspired idea and I congratulate the team who were involved in that official opening.
When it was first conceived, and in its early stages, there is no doubt that the arboretum was a project that the Greens did raise concerns with. We had a number of concerns, particularly about the location, the water usage, the cost and the diversion of resources away from other horticultural assets in the ACT. The arboretum was being proposed against a backdrop of national drought, and we were certainly doing it tough here in the ACT, and experiencing the drought as strongly as anybody else. Not only was the arboretum going to be a high user of our precious potable water, but also we were concerned that many of the species to be planted would not be drought tolerant. I am pleased to note that many of the water issues for the arboretum have been largely resolved by the use of non-potable water for the young trees. No doubt the concerns expressed by the Greens and others in that early phase helped to push this approach. I think it has been a good direction that has been adopted.
We were also concerned about such a large allocation of resources in the face of other horticultural assets being underfunded or under funding pressure. As members know, many of the national institutions have been suffering under significant federal budget cuts over the past decade. The National Botanic Gardens was certainly one of the earliest agencies to face such budget cuts, meaning that it lost many of its horticulturists.