Thursday 02 July, 2015

Mr TARZIA (Hartley) (11:04): I also rise today to support the bill to amend the Native Vegetation Act and I commend the member for Morphett, a good hardworking member in touch with his community, for once again bringing a bill of this nature to this place.

As we have heard, the bill will allow property owners to clean up their road verges in their area without having to go through the stifling red tape of applying to remove native vegetation and also the cumbersome state government and local government regulations as well. I think this is very much a common-sense bill. It is a common-sense bill to reduce red tape, which goes to the heart of common sense.

We have all, in recent times, been made aware of bushfires far too close to home. Deputy Speaker, you might say to me, 'Does Hartley have any of this bushfire zone?' and the answer to that is: it is right on the border. The north-eastern part of my electorate actually runs quite close to the Morialta Conservation Park. If you look at areas like Auldana, once again, that is very, very close to areas of dense native vegetation. Morialta Conservation Park is laden with dense vegetation and so it is really important that we do consider these things, because they are very close to the city. At the moment, you will see in parts of Campbelltown Council and also Burnside Council that some areas actually have a low to moderate fire rating, even now in winter.

I would also like to pay tribute to the many voluntary organisations in my electorate who do a fantastic job fighting fires but also cleaning up in many emergency situations. I had the privilege earlier this year to actually visit the Campbelltown SES, a wonderful group of people. They are absolutely tireless. It is quite touching when you go there to see this sense of community, the sense of warmth and the fantastic job that they do putting their bodies on the line to make sure that they fight fires and get to these emergencies and make the community as safe as possible, and they go where others dare not.

We also have the wonderful Burnside CFS and Norton Summit CFS, and I would like to also congratulate and thank them for their ongoing support in putting out fires close to and around our area. The member for Morphett has, I note, consulted with many of these groups, and there is no real opposition, as far as I am aware, to the bill.

It is worth noting that there is definitely confusion that exists because of the current application process, which prevents people from doing, if you like, the right thing, as they have been too scared to clean up at the cost of worrying about whether they are doing the right thing. To me, that seems absolutely ridiculous. If we, as members of parliament, can cut through that red tape and make the community a safer place and they can get on with the business of actually looking after their local area—we have heard from many of the speakers before us that a lot of the time these embers could be prevented from flying through the air to create smaller bushfires when the main ones are starting. If we can create laws that cut through that red tape to allow the average farmer or property-owner in the country to clean up native vegetation to stop that outburst of fire continuing and growing, why wouldn't we do that?

I commend this bill. It is a common-sense bill by the member for Morphett. I congratulate him for bringing it to the house's attention, even in the face of adversity. He knows it is a good idea; he believes in it. Let's by all means have that battle of ideas and, if we need to tweak it, fine, but it would be foolish of the government to not support this bill. Why wouldn't we cut through the red tape that exists in fighting fires? Why wouldn't we do it? We need to help people. We need to give them the tools to fight these fires.

I acknowledge that there are groups out there that do a fantastic job; no-one is taking anything away from them and what they do and what they aim to do, but if we can make it a little bit easier, we can stop the doubt. Obviously, there are property owners out there who have doubts, who are worried to do certain things because they think they might be breaking the law when they remove this native vegetation. Let's make it easier for them. What is the downside in making it easier for them? Let's just make sure that they have no doubts so that they can go out, clear this vegetation if it poses a risk, and prevent fires because, like I said, it is not just about the country: a lot of the outskirts of the city are close to these areas.

As I mentioned, not much would have to go wrong in the dense bushland at the top of Morialta Conservation Park for that to really get into a residential area, and I do not want that to happen. That is why I will always stand here representing my area, making sure that we give emergency service volunteers the tools they need so they are equipped to fight these fires. Let us also do whatever it takes to enable homeowners, the property owners, to be reasonably equipped with the tools they need to fight fires in and around their areas. I commend the bill to the house.