Page 4728 - Week 13 - Tuesday, 31 October 2017
second, to correct an anomaly in the merits review process. I will speak to each of these in turn.
Under current legislation, anyone can nominate a tree for registration. This nomination is considered by the conservator after consultation with anyone the conservator considers appropriate, based on the cultural and heritage value of the tree. If a registered tree dies of natural causes, the process for deregistering and removing it is lengthy and onerous. It involves giving written notice of the proposed cancellation to the person who proposed the cancellation, the lessee of the land where the tree is located, neighbours within 50 metres of the tree, and the Heritage Council, which must include an indication of whether the cancellation satisfies the cancellation criteria.
After 21 days of notice being given, the conservator must ask the advisory council for advice on the proposed cancellation, with particular regard to the Indigenous and heritage value of the tree. Six months after the publication of the notices, the conservator must decide to cancel or not cancel the tree’s registration, taking into account the advice from the advisory panel and any other comments the conservator received.
Then the conservator can only actually cancel the tree’s registration after the appeals period has ended and no appeal has been lodged or an appeal has failed. This bill seeks to alleviate that burden by allowing trees that have died of natural causes to be removed from the register without the consultation process currently required, which, as I have pointed out, is arduous and onerous.
This is not to say that dead trees have no heritage value, as scar trees could be important both for the community and for wildlife. However, if the conservator is satisfied that the tree has died of natural causes, this bill allows the conservator the option of deregistering and removing the tree with a significantly streamlined procedure.
As can be expected, the ACT Conservation Council has some views on this bill. I thank Larry O’Loughlin for taking the time to talk to me about the council’s concerns. The council’s concerns, as outlined to me, revolve around the powers of the conservator and the discretion the conservator has in determining whether a tree has died of natural causes. They would like a narrower framework for determining whether a tree has died.
The Canberra Liberals are of the opinion that the position of conservator exists to ensure that an expert in the field of conservation is able to exercise his or her judgment. The position of conservator is a respected and highly regarded one, and we think that some discretion of expertise and judgment is necessary to enable the conservator to carry out his or her duties without undue red tape.
The second purpose, to amend the merits review provision, comes about in part, I understand, as a result of a decision in the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal on Liangis Investments and ACT Conservator of Flora and Fauna handed down on 1 December 2016. Merits review is intended to strengthen the accountability of