Page 4729 - Week 13 - Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . . Video

regulators and is designed to deliver better decision-making over time. So the presidential member’s conclusion that under existing law no entity had a right of merits review in a decision about the cancellation or the refusal to cancel the registration of a tree is problematic.

As the explanatory statement states:

This was not the intention of the original legislation and so the amendments relating to this extend merit review of the decision to all entities that are directly affected by the decision and whose interest could be significantly affected or disadvantaged by the decision.

As it stands, only the person who holds or held the registration can seek review of a decision to cancel or refuse to cancel the registration of a registered tree. The presidential member found this phrasing unhelpful, as the registration is not actually held by anyone, thus denying anyone standing for merits review.

This bill seeks to amend this drafting mistake and gives eligibility to the person who nominated the tree, as was presumably parliament’s intention under the original act. It also broadens the eligibility of those who can seek merits review to a number of other interested stakeholders, including the lessee of the land where the tree is located, the neighbouring lessees within 50 metres of the tree and the Heritage Council if they gave advice on the registration of the tree.

The ACT Conservation Council suggests that the list should be widened for others to have standing, such as community groups and neighbours and businesses beyond 50 metres of the tree. They argue that environmental groups whose very existence is to preserve the natural heritage of our community have also been excluded from this bill’s broadened pool of merits review applicants.

While I understand the council’s concerns, if we were to support, as I understand Ms Le Couteur will be proposing in some amendments, to broaden the pool, we would have a situation in which anyone or any group that claims to be adversely affected by the decision, no matter how tenuously, will be able to seek merits review over a tree even if the owner or the nearest neighbours who are directly impacted have no problems with the cancellation.

The Canberra Liberals believe that the bill as drafted finds a balance on expanding the pool of potential applicants wide enough to allow those who are genuinely and significantly impacted to have standing, without throwing the net so wide that anyone who has even a passing glance at the tree has a right to challenge the conservator’s decision. Broadening the eligibility pool too widely has the real risk of stifling development or obstructing works that are necessary for the future of our city, and can have an onerous and negative impact on the people most affected by the tree.

Accordingly the Canberra Liberals support this bill as drafted and will not be supporting the amendments that I understand Ms Le Couteur will move. We appreciate and respect all community groups, including the Conservation Council, who do so much to preserve our natural and cultural heritage, and we trust that the

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . . Video