Page 4730 - Week 13 - Tuesday, 31 October 2017

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conservator will take on board a number of diverse views in making a decision to deregister a tree.

MS LE COUTEUR (Murrumbidgee) (5.25): I rise to speak on the bill generally and to outline the amendments which have been circulated in my name, which I will move later in this debate. I will start with a bit of background, but only a little bit, because last week members heard at some length my views about trees and the importance of trees in Canberra. It is worth re-emphasising that the Canberra community has very strong views on urban trees. Every year tree-related issues end up in the Canberra Times and on ABC 666. Some of these relate to street trees and others to trees in our parks. Some relate to trees that could be removed in the development of new suburbs.

It is important to note that this bill is not making changes to the processes that apply to every regulated tree; we are talking specifically about trees which are registered trees. To be registered they need to be, to quote the government’s website and, I am sure, the legislation, of “exceptional value”. They are not just normal street trees or park trees that the immediate neighbours love; these are trees that are exceptional and therefore of wider community interest.

To give you an idea of what kinds of trees we are considering here, some of the registered trees closest to this chamber are the elms in Glebe Park and the trees up on Vernon Circle. I did a count of the list of registered trees, and I believe that in my whole electorate there are only 18 trees that meet the exceptional standard, out of hundreds of thousands of trees in the ACT. Some of them are old exotic trees and others are large, old eucalypts. Probably on the whole of the ACT list of registered trees there could not be more than hundreds, and possibly only 100 registrations because some registrations are for multiple trees in one go.

My amendments seek to address two issues with the bill: the need for checks and balances in the proposed shortcut of the deregistration process for dead trees; and the need for broader appeal rights than those in the standard registration and deregistration process, because, as I said, we are talking about a very small number of very important trees. These are not just my issues; these are issues that have been raised with me by people in the community who regularly deal with tree protection issues. They are concerned that the bill as it stands will be a backward step for the protection of registered trees. This is not acceptable to the Greens.

Ms Lee noted that she had talked to the Conservation Council and Larry O’Loughlin. I have had very similar conversations, although I think we have come to different conclusions as a result of them. I thought earlier that the government might be proposing something similar to my amendments, an alternative version of them, but I think the situation is now otherwise.

I will now discuss the Greens’ concerns with the bill in some detail, because I am not quite sure where we are up to. The first is the proposed shortcut to the deregistration process for dead trees. That is section 4 of the bill, which inserts a new division 7.4 into the act, the deregistration of trees that have died of natural causes. My concern and that of stakeholders is that the division has no checks and balances on the conservator. A tree dies, the conservator deregisters it and notifies only the lessee and

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