Page 440 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 13 February 2013

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To see the volunteer activity, to see the forest they have planted, the research they are undertaking there is incredible. But also you speak to the contractors and the artists involved with the development of the function centres, the reflective pavilion that is being built at the moment, the roads, the plantings—all of them have been taken away with the importance of this project.

I would like to acknowledge the commonwealth government also for their very generous contribution of $20 million. That went to helping finance the village centre. And it is not just the function centre; there is going to be probably the best playground in Canberra, until the boundless playground is finished, at the arboretum. I was there yesterday morning, having a look at how that playground is going. So people will be able to bring their children there and their children will be able to play in a playground that you will not find anywhere else in the world. It is happening right here in Canberra.

The Waldren family have been very generous with their donations, financial donations, to the arboretum. They have provided, I think, not only emotional support in their understanding of the vision of the arboretum but also their sponsorship towards the development of the arboretum.

Going to what Mr Rattenbury said, there have been a whole load of ACT government officials involved in this project, from the days of LAPS, Economic Development, the Chief Minister’s Department and finally, in the last 18 months or so, TAMS. There was a lot of pressure on getting all of that done for the opening. So thanks to Gary Byles and his executive director, Fay Steward, who did an incredible job. I think there were many sleepless nights in the lead-up to the arboretum. Thanks to all the officers that sit below those executives and to the arboretum team. Everyone involved, I think, would accept that the day went off just as we had wanted it to.

Let us not forget the size of this project—250 hectares of land right in the middle of the city, burnt out through bushfire. The question before the government at the time was what to do with this land. I think when the criticism is made of the timing of the arboretum’s development and the decision around the arboretum, we must remember it in that context, that we had had a bushfire that had ripped through, that had burnt down the pines, and the government had to make a decision about what we were going to do with that land. We would not let it turn into weeds. It had to be managed. I think there were several choices around how that could be managed.

The view from Dairy Farmers Hill is amazing, and anyone who has been up there, I think, would understand the opportunity that was presented to do something different, to do something long term, to do something that was investing in Canberra and really separating Canberra from perhaps its traditional belief that it is just the seat of the national parliament, to have this amazing national attraction.

The emphasis of Mr Gentleman’s motion today is to try to get bipartisan support for the National Arboretum, to acknowledge that it has opened, the value of it and the efforts of all people in getting it to the point it is today.

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