Mr PEDERICK: I rise to speak to the Planning, Development and Infrastructure (Exceptional Tree Register) Amendment Bill introduced by the member for Waite. Certainly, as a regional member and as one serving on the Natural Resources Committee, I am very well aware of the benefits that trees, scrub out in the regions and also shelter belts, whether they be in regional areas or in urban areas, have on the community. I want to talk a bit about what we are leaving for the next parliament. As part of the Natural Resources Committee is the investigation into the Native Vegetation Act and the management of native vegetation, which can be a vexed argument.
I remember when land clearing was coming to an end in South Australia—I am talking about farming land, obviously—in the late seventies. When the word got out that there was no more land able to be cleared for farming after a certain date, the dozers and chains went 24 hours a day.
In most cases they got it right—in most cases. Sometimes, and you get this in Mallee country, they might have gone a little bit high on a sandhill but that has all been fixed up with plantings of veldt grass, lucerne and other plants that can stabilise the soil. Sadly, in other cases, there were opportunities to clear really good, flat, productive land. Some of that was done but then, for whatever reason, some landowners let it go past the time, when you could not clear the regrowth, so that absolutely great grain-growing and wheat-producing land was lost to production.
I note that there are many different views on how much vegetation is out there. Some people have the view that it is only the corridors up and down the roads. However, you only have to get up in a light plane or even in a commercial plane and fly over the state, and certainly fly over Adelaide, to see how many trees and sheltered areas there are, especially in the broad area of Parklands that we have here and the parks being put in place by the environment minister, David Speirs, and our government.
Vegetation does produce a great deal of amenity, especially in the urban or heavily built-up areas in our regional towns, where obviously there is a lot of concrete and bitumen, and it is great to allay what can turn into heat islands with trees and shrubs. What happens now with new developments, which is a much better proposal than what happened with old developments in regional towns and planning right across the board through Adelaide as well, is they have to have 12 per cent of green space, and that has to be put in place to alleviate the impact of cutting up that land.
We certainly need development, as we are seeing in the regions where you can barely buy or rent a property because they are just not available, because people are coming to the regions and finding out how good they are. A lot of that has happened because of the impacts of COVID-19.
So trees are important but, as we saw with the fires a couple of years ago and with bushfires generally, they become a tunnel of fire when they light up. We have seen some terrible bushfires in the last few years up in the Hills at Cudlee Creek and Harrogate, at the top end of my electorate, and this was raised at public meetings I attended because there are some quite significant trees, some beautiful eucalypts along these roads. Before the Cudlee Creek fire, a lot of people had only recently—and when I say recently, it might have been in the last 10 or 15 years—moved into the Hills. It is not their fault, but they did not realise what could happen and how late is too late.
If your bushfire survival plan is to leave your property, and if the road is a tunnel of fire, I would suggest that you should be staying home and making the best of what is there. It is good to see people taking up the mantle of farm fire units and having units at their home. They can be as simple as a 1,000-litre shuttle hooked up to a Honda pump, or another pump, and you instantly have a fire unit for not a huge expense.
It is a vexed question and I do not know if anyone will ever have the right answer. It is certainly a vexed question as far as trees along roadsides are concerned. An issue I have brought before the Natural Resources Committee is the clearance you are allowed, especially when transporting equipment in regional areas. Farming equipment has become bigger, longer and wider and you just cannot get that up some roads because the native vegetation clearance rules are that strict—I believe only a metre back from the guide post.
A lot of times, when you have really wide equipment that could be, in the old language, 40-feet or 60-feet air seeder bars, cultivators. It is quite wide equipment and it is a struggle to get up the road. I note that a lot of people are designing the equipment so that it stretches longer but you can still get the width when you unfold it.
As the member for Chaffey said, in farming it is very nice to put back in places where you might need shelter belts. We put in several kilometres of shelter belts back in the early nineties, and it is fantastic to have them in place, and that was direct seeding to scarify the seeds and get them in. Back in the 1970s, I remember that the last paddock that was cleared on our place my father used to always cultivate over the last few stumps. For whatever reason, they never got picked up, so the scrub regenerated a little bit, but it was never too much and so dad would crop over it.
When he had a bit of illness, the farm was put out to sharefarmers and they went around this little patch of scrub and now it has turned into a beautiful shelter belt so, in a strange way, it is fantastic that it happened. It is certainly a good idea to protect trees, but we also need to have reality around planning and management. We need to let the processes go through on what the planning department are doing with the consultation with regard to the management of significant trees, and that would take into account what the member for Waite is trying to do here with another category of exceptional tree.
You also get some undue outcomes with significant trees. We have seen that in recent times, where trees, mainly in the Hills, have, sadly, crashed down on cars and inadvertently killed people. It is a very difficult thing to get the right management and get the whole community safety management right as well. I can also reflect on the saga of the Burnside Shopping Centre tree. What a saga! There would have been well north of $1 million invested to protect the tree that, at the end of the day, never made the grade.
I am very interested in the continuation of the debate, but on this side we are keen to see the planning processes take place, to acknowledge the significance of trees but also the way we cohabitate as a population to get the right outcomes for all.
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