Page 3286 - Week 09 - Wednesday, 23 August 2017

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The Greens believe that current generations have a responsibility to ensure that the environment is protected for future generations. We need to maintain, expand and connect protected areas across the ACT in order to preserve our local biodiversity. In particular, we are fortunate to have some unique grassland and woodland environments right on our doorstep and these should be valued, restored and protected.

Since European settlement, 99.5 per cent of Australia's natural temperate grassland communities have been destroyed or damaged, and many plant and animal species have become locally extinct or critically endangered due to habitat loss and degradation. In the ACT we have been lucky enough to retain a comparatively higher level of the original temperate grassland remaining in moderate to good condition, although it is still only about five per cent of what originally existed.

Many of the species that depend on these grasslands are at risk of extinction, such as grassland earless dragons, the striped legless lizard, perunga grasshoppers, and the Ginninderra peppercress. The ACT government has a legal and moral responsibility to protect these plant and animal species and the ecological communities that support them.

As members are aware, the ACT’s population and urban footprint are growing, as we discussed earlier today, and climate change is increasingly requiring us to take adaptive measures in response to its impacts. In this environment, it is even more important that the ACT government is consciously and actively ensuring that our native bushlands, rivers and protected biodiversity areas are preserved and enhanced.

This is not to suggest that our bushlands and protected areas should be inaccessible to the Canberra community. The ACT’s fantastic natural assets make us an ideal place for nature-based tourism. By encouraging ecotourism, we have an opportunity to educate the community and visitors about the importance of biodiversity and its value, and how to protect and enhance our natural environment. From Tidbinbilla in the south to Jerrabomberra wetlands in central Canberra and Mulligans Flat in the north, the ACT is full of great resources that can support local tourism opportunities.

In particular, this motion highlights the work of the Woodlands and Wetlands Trust in protecting over 600 hectares of the territory’s environmental assets. On behalf of the ACT Greens, I would like to add my thanks to the trust for all the important work they have done to protect our threatened habitats and species, as well as promoting nature-based tourism. We have seen some remarkable results in both Mulligans Flat and Jerrabomberra wetlands in recent times, which will help ensure that these areas can be enjoyed by future generations. Certainly in my time as the Minister for Territory and Municipal Services, when the Woodlands and Wetlands Trust sat within that agency, I was very pleased to work with the trust to both revamp their governance and strengthen their role. In particular, I was pleased to see them taking some key initiatives, such as introducing night tours. And I was very pleased that we were able to secure money in the budget to, with the federal government, facilitate the fence extension through the Goorooyarroo area and provide the opportunity for extending the predator-proof fence from what is already an incredibly successful area—it has been a remarkable ecological experiment—and increase the size of that area.

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