Page 4263 - Week 12 - Tuesday, 24 October 2017

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else, for households that are already under housing stress that $9 or $10 is going to hurt a lot of households in Canberra. On that basis we will be opposing this bill.

MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong—Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability, Minister for Justice, Consumer Affairs and Road Safety, Minister for Corrections and Minister for Mental Health) (4.37), in reply: As Ms Lawder has noted, this bill makes amendments to the Utilities (Technical Regulation) Act 2014, which falls within the climate change and sustainability portfolio, and makes consequential amendments to the Tree Protection Act 2005. This bill demonstrates the government’s important commitment to public safety, as it addresses ongoing issues relating to the risk caused by trees coming into contact with live powerlines.

One of the most significant risks associated with contact of this kind is ignition of a bushfire in the outer rural areas of the ACT, which could easily spread into the urban area, as seen in the 2003 Canberra bushfires. As well as addressing key actions under the strategic bushfire management plan 2014-19, such as reducing ignitions from power infrastructure, the bill also resolves discrepancies that exist for vegetation clearance responsibilities. The bill achieves these important outcomes by making a series of amendments to the Utilities (Technical Regulation) Act to clearly define responsibility for vegetation clearance and maintenance work.

The amendments in the bill can be broken down into the following major categories, which I will discuss in further detail shortly: one, vegetation clearances; two, electrical infrastructure management within the network boundary; three, inspection outside the network boundary; and, four, offences. A number of supporting amendments are also made in the bill to ensure that the legislative powers introduced in the bill are exercised in an appropriate way.

Let me move on to discuss some of the more significant amendments of the bill in detail. Firstly, I would like to discuss the utility’s responsibilities under the bill for keeping vegetation clear of powerlines. When branches and other vegetation come into contact with powerlines, there is the potential to cause ignition. This risk is increased on days of high bushfire danger, when an ignition can quickly turn into a fire that can spread rapidly, especially in rural areas. Maintaining acceptable minimum clearance distances for trees is integral to ensuring that the ACT does not experience a major preventable bushfire and also to ensure reliability of supply during major storms.

New section 41D is inserted by clause 7 of the bill. It provides that the utility is responsible for clearing vegetation to minimum distances from aerial lines on certain defined land. As I mentioned in my introduction speech, this now specifically includes unleased territory land such as nature strips, national parks and reserves, and rural land, which includes clearing vegetation from powerlines within and outside the network boundary on rural properties.

This gives effect to a role the utility currently undertakes in national parks and reserves and also provides it with new vegetation clearing responsibilities on unleased territory land in the urban area. The utility is limited only to undertaking work that is reasonably necessary for clearing vegetation. It must be undertaken in accordance

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