MS LAWDER (Brindabella) (5.01): I seek leave to amend my notice by omitting "Nature Conservation Bill"and inserting "exposure draft of the Nature Conservation Bill", twice occurring.
I move the amended motion:
(a) the exposure draft of the Nature Conservation Bill which was tabled in the ACT Legislative Assembly on 31 October 2013 by the Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development;
(b) the length and complexity of this legislation; and
(c) the concerns raised, by various environmental organisations in the ACT, regarding the short time available to provide submissions; and
(2) refer the exposure draft of the Nature Conservation Bill to the Standing Committee on Planning, Environment and Territory and Municipal Services.
I thank the Assembly for giving me the opportunity to move this motion today. The exposure draft of the Nature Conservation Bill 2013 was tabled on 31 October last year. The aim of the exposure draft of the bill was to strengthen the ACT's existing nature conservation framework, and this bill has certainly been written with the best intentions. However, I am here today to raise a few points of contention that need to be addressed.
The Nature Conservation Act 1980 has been the primary ACT legislation for more than 30 years in this area. It covers an extensive area of nature conservation policy and, as well, has flow-on effects to other legislation. We have had this legislation for in excess of 30 years, so it is essential that we get its replacement right. We need to ensure proper scrutiny of the exposure draft of this bill from all stakeholders in order to guarantee that a new bill will place our nature conservation activities in a better position than before.
The government spent extensive time putting this exposure draft together, so it was therefore quite surprising it provided the community with only six weeks to submit feedback on such a complex and intricate piece of legislation. The explanatory statement was 108 pages, while the bill itself was more than three times that size. Yet the community only had from 31 October to 13 December to provide feedback. It was impossible for the conservation and environment groups, not just because it was a mere six weeks that they were given but because it was the six weeks leading up to the Christmas shutdown when many community organisations have staff going away.
After the tabling of the exposure draft and early on in the consultation process, groups contacted the minister to advise that they would need more time, to no avail. It was not until the minister was contacted on numerous occasions towards the end of the consultation process that he extended the time frame over the Christmas period until 31 December. The problem here was that due to the Christmas shutdown many of those groups were already away and did not receive that notification of the extension. In early January, when some groups returned to work, they became aware of the changed date, but there was some confusion with media reports about extensions of time which, again, sector organisations seemed unaware of.
With such an important piece of legislation, which the government spent a lot of time developing, you would think that more time for consultation would be appropriate and clear communication about this deadline would be essential. I am here today to request the support of members of the Assembly for the exposure draft of this bill to be referred to the Standing Committee on Planning, Environment and Territory and Municipal Services. This is a logical way forward for this. We want to give community groups a chance to thoroughly review and scrutinise the exposure draft and contribute their own suggestions and comments.
We would like it to go to the committee so that there is the time and ability for the exposure draft of this bill to be compared and contrasted with the old Nature Conservation Act and to review the impacts it may have on other legislation, such as the Planning and Development Act. This, we believe, would give conservation and environment groups the chance to provide their input and detail. We want to ensure we get the best possible piece of environmental legislation. We need to get the basics right and include all stakeholders in the consultation. I encourage members to support this motion today.