Page 4745 - Week 13 - Tuesday, 31 October 2017
MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong) (6.17): The Greens will be supporting this bill which amends the requirement for the parks and conservation service to submit a development application and have the Conservator of Flora and Fauna prepare an environmental significance opinion, or ESO, for minor works in ACT parks and reserves. The bill allows the conservator to prepare a minor public works code which will act as a standing ESO and will set out the standards and practices for carrying out minor works in reserves.
This bill seeks to balance an appropriate red tape reduction with the need to maintain strong environmental oversight of development projects. This is a fundamental tension we are often trying to meet in this place. The Greens have come to the conclusion that we will be supporting this bill because it includes a number of key protections to conserve our precious natural places and ensure that the red tape reductions do not come at the expense of environmental safeguards. As a Greens MLA my priority is always to ensure that Canberra’s native bushland, wild places and protected biodiversity areas are preserved and enhanced for future generations.
The ACT is home to a range of unique grassland and woodland environments that should be valued, restored and protected. At the same time we acknowledge that in order for our parks and reserves to be safe and accessible to visitors a range of minor works need to occur and that these can be done without having a significant adverse environmental impact.
Examples of minor public works listed in the bill include maintenance of roads, bike paths, walking tracks and car parks, landscaping and tree maintenance and repairs to facilities such as fences, signs and park furniture. These are all vital services to ensure that our parks can be enjoyed by members of the public but they are all what could be considered low-risk activities. That is why the requirement for a development application in each individual case is overly burdensome and why an ESO is almost always granted for these activities.
This bill proposes establishing a standing ESO for activities included under a minor public works code so that there is no longer the need to seek an ESO in each case where minor works are required. This is a sensible red tape reduction that will mean repairs and maintenance in our parks and reserves can happen more efficiently.
The Greens are pleased that local environment and conservation stakeholders have already been engaged on this issue and that there will be a role for them to assist with the development of the code. A definition of “minor public works” is included in the legislation, and I understand the code will provide further clarity on what activities are covered and any conditions associated with those activities to ensure that they are low risk.
The code will also be a disallowable instrument giving an added layer of oversight to ensure that the works covered by the standing ESO truly are minor and will not require a full environmental impact statement and assessment through the impact track. Finally, the code must be reviewed by the conservator at least once every five years to ensure that it is working appropriately. These are important checks and