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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Conservation council flags key environmental ACT election issues

Climate change, energy policy, transport and urban densification are all front of mind for the Conservation Council ACT Region ahead of tomorrow’s ACT election.

“Our next climate challenges are the 22% of emissions caused by burning gas for cooking and heating, and the 60% generated from the transport sector, primarily made up of private vehicles,” Conservation Council ACT Region executive director Helen Oakey told Canberra Weekly.

Earlier this month the Conservation Council ACT Region released their ACT election scorecard.

It pointed to a few key environmental issues that the Canberra Liberals, ACT Labor and ACT Greens have all committed to: reaching the ACT’s 30% tree canopy target; commencing organic and food waste collection in the next parliamentary term; continuing the ACT’s purchase of 100% renewable electricity; and supporting the ACT’s net zero emissions by 2045 target.

Despite that, Ms Oakey said she wants to see more action to protect biodiversity and confirmation on where future development will go ahead.

“We are very firmly of the view that the better outcome for the city is to densify within the city boundaries, that we have using really good quality sustainable development that promotes great quality green space,” she said.

“We don’t want to be a city that ends up sprawling across the green space.”

She said while the incumbent Labor-Greens government have “always had a consistent focus and attention to the environment”, they haven’t funded protection of biodiversity “adequately”.

“They’re very ambitious, but if you look at the last budget there was very little new money dedicated to biodiversity protection and management.”

ACT Labor have promised to fund ACT catchment groups and ACT Wildlife to encourage more people to be more active in caring for nature.

Furthermore, ACT Labor have promised to not allow new suburbs in sensitive natural areas like Tuggeranong west of the Murrumbidgee River or in Kowen Forest.

“We will focus on new development in our existing town and group centres and along transport corridors to promote sustainability and reduce urban sprawl,” they write.

Conversely, the Canberra Liberals have said throughout the campaign they’ll release more land for standalone housing and townhouses to “smash the cost of living”.

“Canberra is one of the lowest density cities in Australia … there are real opportunities in densification,” Ms Oakey said.

She criticised all three major parties in Canberra for not having a timeline for Territory-wide cat containment – the Conservation Council’s position is to introduce Territory-wide cat containment by 2025.

“We do have cat containment in new suburbs, which has continued to come online as people move in and know what the situation is, it’s not particularly difficult to extend that policy across the Territory,” Ms Oakey said.

“The longer it takes to make a decision about implementing that policy the harder it becomes,” she said.

The ACT Greens told Canberra Weekly while they don’t have a timeline in place to introduce Territory-wide cat containment, their policy is to gradually implement cat containment “throughout the whole of the ACT, beginning with suburbs that border on nature reserves”.

In their policy document, ACT Labor say they will “continue the roll out of cat containment in a measured, deliberative and consultative way, to protect our pets as well as the natural environment.”

It is unclear what the Canberra Liberals’ cat containment policy is, and neither the Canberra Liberals nor ACT Labor responded to Canberra Weekly when approached for comment for this article.

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