Please note: This is an extract from Hansard only. Hansard extracts are reproduced with permission from the Parliament of Tasmania.
NATURAL RESOURCE MANAGEMENT BILL (No. 2) 2002 (No. 68)
Mr GREEN (Braddon - Minister for Primary Industries, Water and Environment) - Mr Speaker, I move -
That the bill be now read the second time.
Many members will recall that the Natural Resource Management Bill 2002 was debated and passed in this House on 19 and 20 June. The bill then lapsed with the dissolution of the Parliament. This bill is almost identical, but not quite, and thus it is necessary that it undergoes a second debate.
The Natural Resource Management Bill (No. 2) 2002 represents a very significant advance in the way Tasmania manages its natural resources. It will set in place a constructive partnership approach to natural resource management at State and regional levels. The Government believes this approach will yield dividends for the environment, as well as enhancing our productive capacity. It is the first attempt in this State to bring together industry, resource users, land managers and conservation interests to provide a coordinated approach to natural resource management.
The Tasmanian Government is committed to the sustainable management and protection of our natural resources. In that commitment we know we reflect the views and feelings of the community, which came out clearly in the development of Tasmania Together.
The need for better coordination of natural resource management has been increasingly felt in recent years. There has been a growing perception that the various systems for managing our natural resources, whether by Government or private interests, have not always worked together in the most efficient ways. There has been a greater understanding on all sides that 'natural resource management', as an integrating concept, could be put into practice more effectively than it now is. The national-level agreement to make regional planning the basis of natural resource management funding through national programs - the Natural Heritage Trust and the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality - provides a further reason to re-examine our approach.
Mr Speaker, the legislation puts into place the administrative arrangements envisaged in the Tasmanian Natural Resources Management Framework that was launched by my predecessor, Mr David Llewellyn, who is just leaving the Chamber, in February of this year. Nine months earlier, the Government appointed the Tasmanian Natural Resource Management Steering Committee - chaired by Mr Kim Evans, Secretary of the Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment - to develop the Natural Resource Management Framework. The members represented State and local government, industry, conservation and community groups. Over the course of six months' intensive work, they brought the framework into shape.
The Steering Committee released for public comment both an issues and options paper, and a draft framework. The comments and suggestions received from the Tasmanian community were supplemented by feedback from consultative meetings held in many parts of the State. The Natural Resource Management Framework was endorsed by the Government last December and this legislation was subsequently prepared. After the formal launch of the Framework in February, the process of consultation continued through regional forums and working groups, further meetings with stakeholder groups, and the public release of a draft bill. In all, there has been an exceptional process of public exposure and discussion.
I would like to join my predecessor in thanking the steering committee for their hard and fruitful work. Most of the members have also assisted more informally after the launch of the framework through membership of an interim natural resource management group.
Mr Speaker, I would now like to consider the bill in more detail. I will do so in five main parts, covering: the purpose of the bill; the State Natural Resource Management Council; the regional committees; the regional strategies that the regional committees are charged with preparing; and some miscellaneous provisions. In the conclusion I will outline the steps currently under way to ensure a smooth implementation of the structure enabled by this legislation.
The purpose of the Natural Resource Management Framework is to provide the State with a systematic way of integrating natural resource management, to ensure consistency and efficiency, and to result in improved natural resource outcomes.
The legislation will establish the administrative system to coordinate and integrate the activities of the wide range of people and organisations currently involved in the management of our natural resources. Vitally, the framework will integrate, but not replace, the existing systems, policies and processes by which the State Government currently provides for natural resource management. Likewise, this new legislation does not replace existing legislative processes for regulating natural resource use. In particular, the Tasmanian Resource Management and Planning System will continue to provide the overarching legislative framework for natural resource management, and for planning and development control. In other words, this bill is not intended to replace existing policies and processes, but to build upon them. It is also intended to produce efficiencies. This is not a system designed to add a further layer of complexity, but rather to coordinate effort and to provide an integrated and easily understood structure.
These purposes are summarised in the provisions of clause 4. Under 4(1) this legislation, 'is in addition to, and does not limit, or derogate from, any other act'. Thus it introduces no new regulatory powers, and no offences. Established systems will continue to operate, but will do so in a context of formal and strategic integration. Under 4(2), the legislation is tied into the Resource Management and Planning System. This reference to the shared objectives is, as members are no doubt aware, the normal means by which acts become part of the Resource Management and Planning System suite of legislation.
When the framework was being developed, the need for a State council was one of the easier issues to agree on. It was also agreed that the role of such a council would be advisory rather than decision making. The aim is to ensure that the Government receives the best advice available on natural resource management.
The Tasmanian Natural Resource Management Council will comprise up to 16 members, appointed by the Government. To fulfil its role the council must broadly represent regions and stakeholders; have members with appropriate knowledge, skills and experience; and, as far as is practical, be balanced in terms of gender. The bill deliberately avoids being prescriptive about membership, and the critical words are thus those of clause 6(2)(a): the membership of the council 'is to provide a balance of natural resource management interests in the State'.
There are only two exceptions to the bill's general approach of not specifying the council's membership. The first is that the Secretary of the Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment will be a member. This reflects the reality that the department has the main responsibility within government for managing the State's NRM activities. The second is that each of the three regions will nominate one member as a representative to ensure a strong link between the State and regional levels.
As was announced at the launch of the framework, the Government has accepted the recommendation of the steering committee that the first Chair of the council be the Secretary of the Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment, Mr Kim Evans. This acknowledges his close involvement in the process from the start, as he also chaired the steering committee. This is not intended to be a precedent, however. In future such appointments will be on the basis of the persons available and the circumstances at the time. The council will be appointed after a public call for nominations. Its operations will be supported by my department, the Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment.
Finally, the Council is subject to clause 7(2) as a statutory body appointed by the minister -
Mr SPEAKER - Order. The time being 6 o'clock the debate stands adjourned.
Resumed from 1 October 2002
Mr SPEAKER - I know this matter was touched on last night. The minister has 19 more pages to go. As the bill was previously addressed to the House, it is possible to actually have the second reading incorporated in Hansard if the House desires, but if they prefer not to -
Ms Putt - I'd prefer to hear it because there's a change.
Mr SPEAKER - Okay.
Mrs NAPIER - Point of order, Mr Speaker. I rise to ask the indulgence of the minister as to whether he might be able to just take a little time before he starts to present his second reading speech, given that our spokesman is on the way. Hopefully we will be able to get him in quickly without necessarily having to call for numbers.
Ms PUTT - Perhaps I should just stand to say I am not trying to torture the minister, but I would quite like to hear the whole of the second reading speech, not only because it has been a while since we have debated it, but also because there is a change in the content of the legislation since it was debated last time.
Mr SPEAKER - No worries.
Mr HIDDING - Mr Speaker, that is also our view; we recognise this, but the minister has a strange set of spectacles at the moment and he is struggling with that a little, but as he points out himself, there have been some changes. I am actually working through the speech to see where the changes are, and I hope you are going to say where they are because obviously one of the first questions will be what have you changed.
Mr SPEAKER - The honourable Minister for Primary Industries - with his strange glasses.
Mr GREEN (Braddon - Minister for Primary Industries, Water and Environment -2R) - They look strange, but I think they are working all right. This is not my forte, but anyway, we will battle on. For the benefit of Hansard I will start at the paragraph that I finished on last evening on page 9 of the second reading speech.
Finally, the council is subject to Schedule 2. As a statutory body appointed by the minister, its rules of operation need to be laid down in legislation. Being a purely advisory body, these are brief. I will note later the disclosure of interest provisions in clause 19.
Mr Speaker, I think it is fair to say that the formation of regional committees has been the most difficult and widely discussed aspect of the framework, and of the draft legislation. It is also in this part of the bill that small amendments have been made since the debate in June, as I will explain - which I hope covers off the Leader of the Opposition's first point.
First, there is the matter of the regions themselves. This was extensively debated last year, and I believe the conclusion reached in the published framework has satisfied the great majority of people concerned - that is, three regions which are to be based on established community identifications: the north, the south, and the north-west. These correspond approximately with features such as the phone districts and the distribution of our daily newspapers. They also correspond with the boundaries of the local government regional associations.
The main innovation of the regional system is the constitution of the committees themselves. The principle underlying this legislation is that the regional committees must grow out of the regions, and not be imposed by central government. In addition, the regional committees must be legally accountable for their actions, especially in their roles as recipients and managers of funding. However, putting these requirements into practice in properly drafted legislation has not been simple, and this is where the No. 2 bill differs a little from the first bill.
The steering committee concluded, and the Government agreed, that there needs to be some flexibility in regard to the establishment of regional committees. The regions should have the ability to choose committees that suit them, within fairly broad parameters. It was always understood, however, that the regional committees would need also to be approved in some way by the State Government. The bill now makes it clear that the regions should be able to set up committees appropriate to their needs and circumstances. The basic mechanism is unaffected: that each region is to select and propose a body of persons, and if the minister is satisfied that this body meets broad criteria of representativeness and skills, he will then declare it to be a regional committee under the act.
The difference in the No. 2 bill is that the bodies which are declared need not be the 'managing bodies' of the legal entities concerned. It will now be possible for existing organisations, such as the Cradle Coast Authority, to set up natural resource management committees as part of the larger organisation.
Much work has already been done by the regions in preparation for the establishment of their regional committees. In the northern and southern regions it is expected that the incorporated association model will be adopted. However, the legislation is now flexible enough to accommodate other potential options, and in the north-west the choice is likely to be a committee set up under the Cradle Coast Authority, which is a joint authority under the Local Government Act 1993.
Whichever form is used, there will be room for variation in the rules or constitution adopted. Some basic matters would be expected to be common, such as requirements for a rolling turnover of members of the regional committees. These matters are already being discussed in detail by the regions. They can also be specified in the terms and conditions which the minister may attach to an order declaring a body to be a regional committee.
The minister will also appoint one member of each regional committee to be the chairperson. It is considered that this is a reasonable reflection of the responsibility that the State Government will carry in supporting the regions, and in implementing natural resource management. As a fall-back, in case a region is unable - or unwilling - to come up with a body that meets the criteria set out, there is a power for the minister to establish a regional committee. I trust it will never be needed, and if it were, I would hope that any such body would be temporary, but all indications are that the three regions will each have a body eligible for declaration as a regional committee within a couple of months.
There is also provision for the minister to revoke the order that declares a body to be a regional committee. This would be a very grave step which no minister would undertake lightly, but the legislation needs to consider the range of possibilities, and conceivably a regional committee may become dysfunctional and cease to be as representative as the legislation provides, or cease to act in the interests of good natural resource management for its region. I feel confident, however, that the broad range of stakeholders will keep regional committees balanced and effective.
The functions of the regional committees - in clause 10 of the bill - are as outlined in the published framework, and they appear to have broad acceptance. It is important to understand, Mr Speaker, that the regional committees are not the same sort of body as the State council, and they do not sit 'under' it in an organisational hierarchy. The council will know what the regional committees are doing, will comment on their annual reports, and has an important role in the development of regional strategies - as I shall explain in due course - but whereas the council is advisory, the regional committees will have a more active function.
A major function of the regional committees will be to develop, implement and update regional strategies. To a large extent this revolves around setting regional priorities, and must be done in consultation with all relevant natural resource management interests in their regions. Regional committees also have an ongoing role in the delivery of natural resource management programs. Under the new national funding models, regional delivery based on regional planning will be the prime mechanism for achieving the programs' objectives. The regional committees must therefore have an ability to seek and allocate funds, and to manage projects.
The form of the regional committees is not prescribed in detail, but it is essential that they properly represent the relevant interests in their regions. Therefore, before I declare a body to be a regional committee, I must be satisfied that it embodies the appropriate balance. It is for this reason that the number is now specified as 'not more than 15 persons', as against 'about 12 members' in the published framework. This will allow a region to accommodate additional representation if it considers that to be necessary.
Certain interests are specified, as they were in the framework itself. A regional committee must have representation from the Aboriginal community, State and local government, community interests, conservation interests, and industries - including primary industries - in the region. The category of 'public land managers' is there to cover the two major resource managers, Hydro Tasmania and Forestry Tasmania, which are government business enterprises and are therefore not to be included in the 'State and local government' category. The Parks and Wildlife Service, however - which manages just over a third of the State - clearly is part of the State Government, so it is in no way excluded by not being part of the definition of 'public land managers'.
The regional committees will not be dominated by the State Government. The Government would expect to have one senior official on each regional committee to provide a whole-of-government input. All other members would represent specific natural resource management interests, whether public or private, but the public sector interest would be clearly a minority. There might be another public servant representing the Parks and Wildlife Service, and one or two representatives of the two 'public land managers. The rest would be from the community, conservation interests, industry or local government. Industry includes agriculture, and given their role as land managers, farmers should certainly be represented. In all three regions detailed discussions have occurred regarding membership, through working groups set up after the first regional forums in March. I will say a few words about the forums in my conclusion.
Mr Speaker, I have already alluded to the central role of regional strategies in future natural resource management. The Government believes this is the right way to prioritise and plan natural resource management. It will mean that projects for on-ground action, as well as for activities like research and communications, will need to fit into a proper planning context and be aligned with openly determined State and regional priorities. We want to avoid ad hoc processes, driven by uncoordinated project applications. The legislation therefore provides for the processes by which these strategies will be developed, and for the accreditation criteria that will apply to them.
The preparation of a regional strategy is the main priority for each regional committee. Under clause 12(1) they have 12 months from commencement of the act to prepare their draft strategies. I point out that because commencement is on a date to be proclaimed, and it is intended that commencement will coincide with the formal establishment of the regional committees, so they then have a full year. In all regions, preliminary work on the strategies is in fact now well under way, so in this regard the regional committees will be able to hit the ground running.
The accreditation criteria - which I will come to shortly - will to a large extent define the contents of the regional strategies. For this reason, the legislation provides only for certain minimum requirements for the preparation of the strategies. These minimum requirements basically echo those of the published framework, such things as the need to consult specifically with certain types of interest groups - clause 12(2) - and to encourage participation by the community - clause 13(1)(c).
A specific requirement considered significant by many stakeholders is that strategies are to take account of existing policies, plans and strategies - clause 13(2)(a). This recognises the large range of relevant work already done in the form of catchment management plans like the Huon Valley's natural resource management strategy and like that in the Furneaux Group, as well as all the various management plans and statewide agreements that relate to natural resource management, such as the Regional Forest Agreement or the bilateral agreement on the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality. Consideration of such matters will reduce duplication of effort, and help achieve consistency and coordination with existing formal instruments. The listing and preliminary analysis of relevant plans and policies is now complete in all regions, and this will be a significant input to the regional strategies themselves.
It is intended that a regional strategy will be accredited by the minister, and will then provide the framework for investment in natural resource management by the Commonwealth, the State and local government. A regional strategy, setting out the priorities for action in the region, should also be a guide for non-government investment and activities at the individual, industry or community level.
The accreditation criteria are to be considered by the council as a specific task, and it will then advise the minister. This is an urgent early task for the council. It will have as a basis the accreditation criteria approved in May this year by the NRM ministerial council at its meeting in Hobart, but will be able to finetune them to address specifically Tasmanian concerns.
The council also has a role in the assessment of the regional strategies. They are first to be submitted to the council for its consideration. The council will examine whether they conform to the accreditation criteria, and make a recommendation to the minister. It is the minister who actually accredits the regional strategies. It is most unlikely that there would be serious problems between the council and the regional committees on the content of the strategies, given that the regional committees are required to consult with the council while developing the strategies, but if there are problems, the legislation includes a process for re-submission of a revised strategy.
Finally, the regional strategies are to be reviewed at least every five years, and indeed one would expect them to be subject to continuous improvement as the regional committees take on board new issues and ideas, and respond to changing circumstances.
Mr Speaker, before concluding with an outline of where we are at in terms of preliminary implementation of the framework, there are some miscellaneous issues I would like to clarify. They are all, appropriately enough, in Part 5 'Miscellaneous' of the bill, and I will address them in order.
Clause 17 provides for the determination of 'natural resource management principles'. They are referred to in clauses 7 and 10, and are intended to inform the work of both the council and the regional committees. The value of such principles was accepted in the development of the NRM framework, and they were agreed after considerable comment and discussion. They can be found on page 15 of the published framework. It will be my intention to determine these principles to be the natural resource management principles under this legislation, and I will do so by writing formally to the council and the regional committees. They may need to be reconsidered one day, and the bill gives the minister power to amend them, but only after consulting with the council, so the process would be informed and open.
A somewhat similar process is provided in clause 18, relating to the setting of statewide NRM priorities. The minister determines them after seeking the council's advice. The framework includes on pages 16-18 a set of interim priorities, but notes that the council will review them within a year. In fact, because these priorities need to be considered when regional strategies are being developed, this review will be a priority for the council.
A third miscellaneous issue is the disclosure of interest provisions in clause 19. Mr Speaker, members will notice that this applies to the council and to the regional committees - the only detailed provisions common to both. This means it is also the only detailed provision that applies to the conduct of the regional committees, conduct which is otherwise left to the rules or constitution of whatever form of incorporated body they choose to establish.
The provisions are based on those of the Local Government Act 1993 and will thus be familiar to many people. But I wish to emphasise that we have sought to balance on the one hand the necessary protection against members abusing their position, and on the other hand, the need for the fullest exchange of views by stakeholders in the bodies concerned. The council and regional committees will only be able to operate effectively if the members have experience, skills and knowledge in natural resource management. This will require the involvement and contribution of natural resource managers. The last thing we need is to have such members excluded from participating in discussion about issues that they know a lot about, simply because they might be perceived in a legalistic way to have an interest in the issue. I believe clause 19 strikes the right balance by allowing all members to participate in discussion, but excluding those with a declared interest from any related voting process.
A final provision that members will note is that the act will be subject to a review after no more than five years, and every five years thereafter. This whole process is new, and it is proper that after a bedding-down period everyone concerned should have the opportunity to consider how well it is working and whether these processes and structures are in fact improving our management of natural resources. More generally, a review will address the issue of whether the cooperative and voluntary approach of the legislation is indeed working better than a more regulatory model might. The review process is deliberately not prescribed, but the very public nature of the institutions and the issues will ensure that any minister must conduct an open, credible review process.
As I have said, Mr Speaker, this bill is the culmination of a broad consultative process, and consultation on various aspects of implementing the framework is still continuing.
In mid-March, regional forums were organised by regional groups in Hobart, Launceston and Burnie. The aim was to consult on a draft bill and to start preliminary work on regional planning and possible regional structures. Therefore each region established one or more working groups to consider implementation issues, and to take steps towards the development of their regional strategy.
The regional forums have all met again, and each region is now close to deciding in detail how it will progress its own arrangements. The Government is keen to move quickly on this matter, and the Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment is putting a lot of time and effort into supporting the regions. Local government is also playing a very active facilitating role. We would hope to see regional committees established within the next couple of months.
An inevitable question is how this new framework should be funded. The framework stated that the State Government, in cooperation with local government, would provide the resources to establish and operate the Tasmanian Natural Resource Management Council and the regional committees. In the case of the council, the commitment is quite clear: the State Government will support the council, through the Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment and arrangements are already in place for that support.
This is not expected to be simply an additional cost. As the framework emphasised, the new institutions are not intended to be just built on top of what exists already. The Government is to look closely at the potential for gaining efficiencies through streamlining State-level advisory mechanisms.
On funding sources for regional committees, there is potential for assistance from national funding programs. For instance, the regional NRM planning process will be funded initially by the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality for the northern and southern regions and the Natural Heritage Trust for the north-west. It is expected that this funding will support the regional groups until at least the end of 2002-03. Thereafter, much of the work to be conducted by the regional committees will be under these programs, so they can expect to be supported in part as administrators of the relevant funding. For the rest, the Government will continue to work with local government and other stakeholders, and I remain confident that we will reach satisfactory arrangements.
In conclusion, I return to the process that has led us to this point. It has been long and occasionally arduous, but has also generated a large degree of agreement and goodwill. Better natural resource management is increasingly understood to be a national priority, essential for long-term economic prosperity as well as for protection of the environment. I think all members realise that good natural resource management is at least as important for Tasmania as for other States, and the Tasmanian community understands this. In the long run, the Government believes the institutional arrangements provided in the bill will be seen as a major step forward in managing the natural resources that we all value so much. Mr Speaker, I commend the bill to the House.
Mr ROCKLIFF (Braddon) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I congratulate the minister on his inaugural bill. This side of the House would like to indicate that we support the bill. I have seen the considerable debate prior to the election in the House between the former Minister Llewellyn and my predecessor, Mr McManus. The previous Opposition opposed the bill mainly on the basis of concern around the level of consultation undertaken, it appears, and that the approach as outlined will not deliver the desired results as other options may do. However, I recognise that this bill before the House is the result of a substantial effort to develop a natural resource management framework for the State in order to provide for greater coordination of the State's natural resource management efforts.
It would appear that the framework which this bill seeks to set in place does have wide community support, and after contacting a number of stakeholders I do believe this is the case. The Opposition understands the bill establishes the Tasmanian Natural Resource Management Council with three regional committees in the north-west, north and south, and also a process for the development of NRM strategies. It does not, however, introduce any new regulatory power.
The NRM council will be appointed by the Government, while the three regions will be allowed to set up their own committees to develop and implement regional strategies. Regional strategies will be accredited by the minister on criteria similar to those already in place for implementing NRM major programs - the NHT and the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality.
While the Opposition is on record as not supporting the bill, I believe the time has come to agree to a framework which has wide general support. Certainly, the Federal Government also wishes this bill to be supported. The Tasmanian Natural Resource Management framework on which the bill is based is a sound document and we are pleased at the level of the consultation that was undertaken. Consultation on the framework included community groups, local government, farmers, and forestry and conservation interests, and I believe this, Mr Speaker, because I was indeed part of the consultation process.
From the Opposition's point of view, I want to state clearly that as we are committed to a sustainable future, it is essential that we manage our natural resources in an effective manner. I, as well as my Opposition colleagues, understand that proper management of our natural resources is vital for our future in terms of sustaining our industries and ensuring positive environmental outcomes. If we were to oppose such legislation, then we would need to also cast our minds to another workable alternative. I have thought through this long and hard and I am pressed to find an alternative that does not raise similar questions or, indeed, further complicate the proposed arrangement. Having been involved in natural resource management groups, including Landcare over the last ten years or so, especially in the last few years with administering of NHT funds for on-ground works, I can say that the present system does need addressing in terms of a more efficient application and administering of funds. However, we will not know how your proposed system operates until it has been given a good opportunity to prove itself.
If you wish to receive funds from the Federal Government there does have to be framework and an efficient system to administer the funds. We need to have a system in place as soon as possible to ensure the flow of funds of NRM on ground works continues. There is still a lot of goodwill out there in the community for solid and practical works every day. Just as an example from the experience I can draw on, we see landholders fencing off streams, waterways and native riparian vegetation and installing water troughs to encourage stock not to drink from rivers or streams so as not to disturb the river banks and cause subsequent erosion. All these good practical things need to continue and quickly before the people on the ground get frustrated by the processes.
The aim of the bill is to provide greater coordination and integration of the State's natural resource management works; that aim is to be commended. At this point I would like to raise with the minister that this framework must deliver on ground works. By that I mean that, with all the good intentions this bill has, if the people on the ground doing the work, including the landholders and volunteers in land-care groups and the like, become frustrated by a process that is overly bureaucratic or reduces local ownership then all this will be for nothing. Also you may have the most balanced Tasmanian Natural Resource Management Council and indeed regional committees, for example, but if the people on the ground, virtually all of them volunteers, are frustrated by bureaucratic process then your expectations of results will not be met.
The Opposition agree that if we are to work with and ensure the protection of our environment and at the same time utilise our natural resources to be productive then we must bring together all stakeholders that cover a wide range of interests from farmers and other land managers, to industry and those with a strong conservation interest. The NRM framework has the potential to allow this.
One concern I wish to raise is that we ensure that practices are put in place very quickly. I have been around natural resource management for some years now and there are a lot of good on-ground works that have taken place. I do sense a frustration in the community, however, at the plethora of consultants' plans that have already been undertaken thus far. I am assuming, Minister, that this will continue as each region will have its own natural resource management plan before any on-ground works begin in the areas of catchments not covered by an existing NRM plan.
At this point I would like to acknowledge the good work that has been done already in terms of preparation of catchment and municipal NRM plans and I wish again to gain an assurance from the minister that regional NRM committees will not be reinventing the wheel but will be building on what has already been achieved in terms of natural resource management plans and identifying gaps and filling in the deficiencies.
The three regions you set up are, as you say, on the basis of phone districts. This may well sound simplistic but nevertheless sensible in that the three regions have almost a cultural significance, particularly as they are also traditional groups of municipalities. The regions are also, as I understand, the Australian Bureau of Statistics districts for Tasmania which is great for monitoring improvements and recording data in the future. The monitoring and evaluation, of course, is essential so that we can demonstrate to the public who are putting up the majority of funds that we can benchmark our improvements. I would ask the minister what strategies he has to ensure an effective monitoring and evaluation process.
Another reason we are supporting the bill is that the consultative process with the community to appoint regional committees is well under way in all three regions. I am pleased to see that the regions have a good deal of flexibility in establishing the regional committees as I know from my experience that it is important to have a good grassroots approach to establishing such committees to ensure strong ownership by individual members.
I acknowledge that there has already been considerable work within the three regions in setting up their committees. In the north-west a forum of stakeholders held a meeting to decide on the arrangements of the north-west regional committee. The interim working group has developed a model based on using the Cradle Coast Authority as an overarching body and I am pleased that changes to the original bill allow this to happen.
In the north a forum of stakeholders has established and incorporated a regional NRM association and similarly in the southern region, as a result of a meeting with stakeholders agreeing to the establishment of an incorporated regional NRM association which will provide the overarching framework for governance of the southern regional NRM committee.
With this kind of NRM management, if anything is ever to be achieved in terms of sustaining natural resources then we do need a cooperative approach. The catchment committees I have had some involvement in have varying and competing interests with individual members, from those with high conservation values, land-care groups and irrigators seeking secure water entitlements have been extremely constructive working together because, from my observations, it has enabled an extremely balanced membership of committees. Of course, with all the good intentions in the world this can fall over if the people on the council or indeed the regional committees do not take a holistic approach, and become preoccupied with self-interest. That the council or committee needs to be balanced in terms of the interest represented is an understatement. I hope the minister will ensure that the council is certainly represented evenly, and that those who value their natural resources not only from an aesthetic and environmental point of view but also from an industry point of view are well represented.
The aims of the new arrangements to ensure consistency and efficiency are admirable, and if we anticipate that an integrated framework will reduce duplication and therefore provide an opportunity to maximise the productivity out of limited resources, then this is a good thing and we welcome it. As I mentioned before, and in looking at the framework closely, to oppose this bill you would need to look at what other options could be used, and I would say that this system as outlined in the bill is the most appropriate structure with which to proceed.
Ms PUTT (Denison - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, I will be adopting the same position for the Greens that we took when this legislation came before the Parliament just prior to the recent State election. That position is that we do not oppose the bill at this stage. There is clearly a complex system being set up here for natural resource management throughout Tasmania which constitutes, as I guess you would characterise it, an extended series of consultative arrangements at different tiers, and on-ground explicit activity through the regions. It looks a little bit like a bureaucratic nightmare when you first examine it, but I do understand the motivation behind the framework that is being set up. Our position really is that we are going to need to try this to see whether it works. Because of that, the Greens are very pleased to see the in-built review process because it would be extraordinary were such a new vehicle to work perfectly in every aspect the minute you got it on the road and started driving it, so to speak, and we will be watching with great interest to see what actually transpires from what is at this stage envisaged to be the way things will work.
Clearly the impetus behind this has flowed to a great degree from the new requirements of the Federal Government with respect to funding through their programs for the Natural Heritage Trust and the water and salinity programs and so on. Clearly they are saying now that they want some more coherence in the way that the programs come forward, are agreed to and are administered. That has been an ongoing issue for a number of years, and certainly the conservation movement has been quite critical of the ad hoc nature of the proposals and the funding priorities that have eventuated as a result of the ad hoc way that applications have come forward thus far. We really need a coherent and targeted strategy within the State to enable the best possible results from the applications of that Federal funding, and if this changed arrangement can help to prioritise and plan natural resource management better in this State then we have to think it is a good thing, and we certainly have to give it a try.
The need for a focused and strategic approach, as I have said, cannot really be questioned, particularly when you look at the series of more or less random grant applications that have come forward in the past and the way that the lack of coordination has really led, I would contend, to the waste of an awful lot of very good money that should have had a lot more impact on the ground in Tasmania than it has done up to date.
The regional strategies will be very important and I note that the Commonwealth Government has demanded to have and to be able to see regional strategies. I am pleased that they at least are also alive to the problems with pouring money into something that does not have a coherence for achieving results. I know that local government has expressed concerns over funding aspects with respect to this new model and where the moneys are going to come from to run some of these administrative structures. I know it has been flagged that in the first instance it is expected that there will be funding that can flow through from Commonwealth Government programs to at least assist towards that, but I also know that when we debated this legislation prior to the election, the conclusion of negotiations with the Commonwealth over bilateral arrangements certainly had not occurred; indeed, it had been the matter of some quite robust discussions in the weeks not long prior to that legislation coming forward.
I would be interested if the minister could perhaps, if he is able to take advice on this from the people who are in the box for this legislation, update us as to the progress of negotiations with the Commonwealth over those bilaterals, because clearly that is a matter of significant interest to anybody who is going to be involved with this natural resource management framework. I do not know whether the passage of this legislation might, for example, be a requirement that the Commonwealth is seeking prior to some sort of loosening of the purse strings, but I would not be surprised if that was the case.
I think it is important to note clearly that there are no new regulatory powers or offences that are set up under the act, but rather a new administrative structure which will involve a wide range of stakeholders. I spoke to the Tasmanian Conservation Trust about their ongoing involvement with the consultation about this prior to our previous debate on the matter and, although various of their key players were away at the time, I achieved the understanding that they were generally in accord with what had been agreed.
In respect of the regional committees, I think it is a good thing to have the broad representation of skills that is outlined but not be too prescriptive about precisely who is on the committee. It is responsive to who is actually available out there and who has particular attributes that they can contribute to the precision and targeting of on-ground management in any particular area. At the same time, I want to put forward the mirror image of the concerns that have just been put forward by the previous spokesperson. I want to say to the Government, please make sure that conservation interests do not get outweighed by the voices of people who want to exploit natural resources without perhaps so much their primary aim being the conservation of particular natural values for future generations.
I know that we are all moving much more towards some sort of consensus about how a balance could be struck but we are definitely not there yet in Tasmania. It is still going to be a long road. It is going to be, I think, very important to develop some good consensus decision-making arrangements for these regional committees and some very good techniques for how they manage and discuss their business if we are to avoid the trench warfare that you can see over natural resource management issues.
I will be interested to see how the different regional committees determine that they will manage themselves in that regard and whether government centrally is planning any building of skills in that particular area - that is, not skills about resource management but skills about working together for a result. I think that is probably one of the key areas in which we could think about some training and investing in the members who go onto those committees.
There has been a change to the provision with respect to regional committees and I am a bit concerned about it, because in the previous bill that came here my recollection is that there was quite a strong emphasis that the bodies that would be set up would only be regional committees and would not be trying to fulfil other functions as well. I do not know whether this new arrangement that you have flagged - which is because of something that the Cradle Coast Authority wants to do - will set up a natural resource management committee which also fulfils other functions. I hope not, but if you could clarify that that would be useful.
I think it is very important that the regional committees have one clear job and one clear focus and that they are not people who come together to try to do other things as well under the auspices of that particular committee or that particular arrangement of people, or we are simply going to muddy the waters. We are going to lose focus, we are going to get other issues intervening, and we are going to get other factors playing into these relationships of the members of the committee and that is certainly not what we need in this new structure as it goes forward.
I am concerned that we do not want an existing body to somehow become a regional committee and tack that onto their current activities, rather than having the very clear focus of their only business being to act as a regional committee.
I did express some concerns previously about how we were going to ensure that the Government expressed a variety of views, given the restriction on the number of members that the Government puts forward. For example, Minister, in your own department you have people who will sometimes advocate from different parts of the department on two sides of an issue in respect of primary industries, with one side on the promotion of an activity because of its economic benefit and another side on the environmental constraints that must be applied. I am certain that within your department there must be some very interesting discussions that have gone on, for example, with the matter of water and water allocation which would illustrate the two sides of an argument that are contained within your department - which, of course, has led to the public criticism that you have a conflict of interest situation in managing that department.
I am not here to talk about that conflict with you today and I am not trying to find a way to have a shot at you. What I am trying to find out is, where you have one representative but they need to represent positions that are combative to each other, how are you going to achieve that?
At the same time I understand that you do not want to have a committee that is overweighted with government representation compared to the representatives from the community, because we do not want these committees to simply be a semblance of community involvement when the Government actually always has the numbers to steer things their way.
That is not the intent. The intent is obviously for the community to be able to work through the committees. But I do have a question about how that representation from Government is going to be achieved when you do not always have a unified view to put forward on a number of these very significant issues.
As I said, the Greens will at this stage not oppose the bill. We look forward to watching the different organisations being formed under the legislation and being set in place at the different levels and to then watch what eventuates and how the whole system works. We will be very interested to hear from the players at the different levels how they are finding the experience. We will be interested to watch what the results are on the ground and to see whether it helps us secure Commonwealth funding. I think those are the key issues here today. We will await with interest the first five-year review.
Mr HIDDING (Lyons - Leader of the Opposition) - I note that the Greens choose their terminology carefully in saying that they do not oppose this bill -
Ms Putt - Yes we're not wildly enthusiastic because we simply do not know how it is going to work yet.
Mr HIDDING - rather than saying they actually support the bill which is the result of a very substantial process of public consultation. I get the message and I guess, taking a lead from that contribution, that the jury is still out. But this Government is responding to a substantial consultation process throughout the State and has been willing, even in the short interregnum, to respond to some regional issues - such as the situation that exists with the Cradle Coast Authority that was able to be incorporated in the bill. I think that is clever and is the way to go. It recognises that there ought not to be a whole range of constraints being put on these committees . If the north-west coast wants to utilise the Cradle Coast Authority, that is great. It is a way that an authority can establish itself even better.
I take this opportunity to commend the minister for his first bill and thank him for the entire read because I think it was important for his first bill to do that. It happens to be an appropriate bill for a new minister in this portfolio to start with. It reflects a huge amount of work done not just by farmers but also landowners out there who have issues. There are some people who have substantial pieces of land and do not farm it. You have other people who own small pieces of land and they do farm it. You even have, as we saw in the recent debate on plantation forestry on private land, people from the mainland buying small pieces of land in the backblocks, having purchased it for a particular reason - a view of Bass Strait or whatever - in spite of the fact that they do not realise that a tree could grow in front of them. But for all that they purchased this land and they have rights as well. That they should not have any more or less right than anybody else is the important thing.
I note the flexibility that is built into this legislation to allow the Government and minister of the day to make sure that those committees are not stacked one way or the other. Make no mistake, without that flexibility, if there were a process of local voting or that type of appointment, before long you would have one interest group or other - more specifically our parliamentary colleagues on my left - who would work very strongly through the normal democratic processes to make sure they were represented on all these committees. They would work through that. There is no room for politics, I believe, in these regional committees. Each appointment will bring their own brand of politics and their own feelings and their own values to the process. One would hope that the minister of the day, whichever side of politics occupies that role, would continue to appoint regional committees in the spirit in which it was intended today - that is, a very broad representation to make sure that all sectors of the community are represented.
I read with interest section 19 of the legislation, which deals very specifically with the issue of disclosure of interest. That is interesting because so often these pieces of legislation simply require the normal common law understanding of disclosure of interest to prevail. But it does get a little sticky in these circumstances. I am reminded where in the Derwent Valley in New Norfolk there is a benefited area rate paid for by the central town property owners but collected by the Government and then expended by the committee of those property owners to benefit their own properties. Somebody has woken up that a couple of those property owners are spending those moneys on themselves. So there would be a terrible conflict of interest, wouldn't there? Of course there is not. The fact is you have to have a conflict of interest to be in it in the first place. You must have that general interest. Then there are issues that if a person were to dominate that committee and spend all the money outside his own shop. That is why I think this has been well specified in this clause that says, 'Yes, of course you can have a general interest'. In fact it is almost imperative that you have a general interest in your region and in expending Federal or State funds.
If you own a property in the area, you should not be forbidden from being on that committee. Yes, of course you can. If however the conversation gets down to the nitty-gritty of where the money has to be spent and it becomes apparent that it is going to be spent on a farmer's property or a property that is closely associated with a member on that committee - and that is all specified - then that person should quite rightly put his or her hand up and say, 'I will absent myself from this committee because I have an interest that could result in a benefit or a disadvantage'. Some people would think from time to time, 'Oh, I'm not going to get anything out of this. I'm losing, so I shouldn't have to leave the room'. Of course you have to leave the room because when you are in the room you can influence a negative outcome so that that money is not spent to provide a disadvantage to you. So it is good that legislation takes this opportunity to put this down. I think they have got that right. I will use that model in section 19 of this in a number of organisations that I know who struggle a bit with this concept of where and when conflict of interest kicks in.
If we were to apply this broad 'scattergun' of an interest that would mean that all members of parliament could not possibly have any commercial interests, should not own any land, should not have any connections to any businesses - and that of course is a nonsense. I have noticed already some backhander remarks from the other side of the Chamber about my colleague who has just spoken on this bill because he has a farm. 'Oh, you'd have an interest, wouldn't you, Jeremy? Something to do with spuds'. Well, of course he has a general interest in these matters, as does every farmer in Tasmania. When there is a bill that talks about something that provides a direct benefit or disadvantage, he will take the opportunity to place on the record that he has an interest and he may or may not choose to absent himself from the vote, just like my former colleagues, Bill Bonde and Denise Swan, did on the matter of plantation forestry. They spoke on it at length but felt that it was appropriate that they inform the House of an interest they had and absent themselves from any vote.
It is good that there is an opportunity for us to keep our hands clean on these matters and we should not get too bound up in all this nonsense of pecuniary interest. We must understand that a general interest is in fact important. Why should we not have a spud farmer or a parsnip grower or whatever in the place when it comes down to a piece of legislation that benefits the grower of one of those vegetables? That could be taken into consideration. After all, the farmers of Tasmania are very pleased that we have a farmer in the place -
Mr Kons - There are two of us.
Mr HIDDING - Yes, of course, farmer Kons who also owns a piece of land and farms it very well. I am not exactly sure what he grows -
Mr Kons - Pyrethrum.
Mr HIDDING - So when the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Bill comes up we will see that you do not have a direct interest?
Mr Kons - No.
Mr HIDDING - Just checking, because of course pyrethrum becomes a pesticide, as you would be aware, but a natural -
Mr Kons - Overseas.
Mr HIDDING - Overseas, so that is all right; yes, of course.
Mr Deputy Speaker, we do support this bill. This sets in place the framework for the distribution of large slabs of money that comes to this State through the NHT funding and the salinity funding. NHT funding has been around for some time. It has subsumed the land-care funding. The salinity funding is relatively recent but I remember John Howard saying at the time how much money was actually to go into it because the Coalition Federal Government was particularly worried about salinity issues. Thankfully, that has not affected Tasmania too much but there are salinity issues in this State. There is a farmer on this island who, when I was on his property, took me aside and said, 'If you don't tell anybody about this, I'll show you', so I am not telling anybody exactly where his farm is. He said, 'Dip your finger in that creek and have a taste'. It might just as well have been named Saxa Salt Creek because that is what it tasted like. So there are definitely salinity issues.
Mr Green - You can give us the creek but you don't have to give us the property.
Mr HIDDING - No, perhaps not. I have to say that that farmer is involved in substantial remediation works and it is well under control in that area. There is no question that these funds have to be spent and it is good that this framework sets in place the process by which they can be spent.
I happen to be in politics on the side of States' rights. I know there are some centralists around in the Federal Government on all sides of politics, but I want to place on record my concern that something that becomes a Federal Government program - generally three-or four-year programs or eight-year programs - has actually become a stream of money that this State cannot live without. Therefore it is no longer a program: it is a permanent stream of funds which, if the State were to become addicted to it - just as we are addicted to poker machine money or revenue from the Hydro - somebody could turn off that tap of funding and our Budget could fall over. I am worried about the increasing reliance of the overall Budget on these Federal programs. It is something that we want to watch with care.
The other issue of course is that the Federal Government makes $1 million available. It goes through the State Government and we need to be very careful that our State Government does not suck up $200 000 of that funding and, lo and behold, there is only $800 000 out the sharp end because somewhere or other it has been laundered through the State Government. There are people to be paid on the ground I suppose, but in other circumstances I know the Federal Government is particularly worried about the State taking too much off the top and that will result in the sort of debate that we had from one Federal minister who was threatening to fund councils direct. In fact it has happened, hasn't it? The Federal Government, in a backhander to the States on the roads-to-recovery program, said, 'We want to do something for the economy; here is a bucket of money. Let's in this instance give it direct to the council, straight to local government and bypass the State coffers'.
I think that is a worrying trend but I do not blame them for doing it. We need to look at our p's and q's and figure out why they are doing that. We must not give the Federal Government any reason to do that in the future. I just think it is bad for the country to see that kind of structure of intergovernment funding taking place.
As I said, the balance of membership on the committees is an important matter. I would not like to see some of those smaller land-holders who call themselves farmers, who might run 50 sheep because they bought a 10-acre property and are semiretired or on a disability pension or are self-funded retirees, become known as farmers or primary producers and soak up the dollars and all the attentions that our primary industry should be getting through that device. I think that small regional committees can work through those issues and just because there is a small-property owner who purports to be a farmer and has a loud voice and comments on every issue going by, those people sometimes tend to end up at the sharp end of the debate because their name is always in the newspaper or they are a local commentator. The fact is they have no other justification for being on the decision-making panels than the fact that they have a big voice.
I think that this bill makes a substantial move forward. It reflects most of the concerns that have been expressed to me over the years about the expenditure of land-care funds and HT funds and what have you. The Greens have said, 'The jury is out'. Well, why wouldn't they say that? A government has to put its best foot forward, it has to consult, it has to draw up the best possible model it can with all the information at hand and then with continuing goodwill - because that is always a thing - you set up a structure. You want continuing goodwill on these regional committees - people who do not spit the dummy at the first hiccup.
I can place on the record that our side of politics will be helpful to the Government and helpful to the whole process in the regions. If anybody wants our assistance or advice on these matters they will be under no misapprehension that we support this process and we want them to get involved, to put their hand up if they would like to be involved in something. We might take the opportunity to write to the minister and say, 'Minister, here is a person who understands a lot of these matters and has a balanced view on matters' and submit a name to you from time to time for consideration for service in these things. In the past, various governments have taken that in the spirit it was intended and we have had good outcomes.
So, Minister, congratulations on your first bill, you have our support.
Mr GREEN (Braddon - Minister for Primary Industries, Water and Environment) - First of all can I thank Mr Rockliff for his response and his congratulations on my first bill. I have taken great heart from the fact that people have been so conciliatory in recognising that when you make a bit of a change in your life and have the responsibility of bringing in a bill it is a big occasion. I would like to extend the same thanks to the Greens for the general positive comments about this bill in light of that spirit and the fact that there has been an enormous amount of work done to get to this point. I should recognise the people who are working within the department and those who have been working on the ground to get us to the stage where we are in a position to adapt this particular strategy, accommodate the framework, and work with regional communities generally to achieve better outcomes for natural resource management in the State. That is really what it is all about and, as I said in the second reading speech, we are committed to doing that.
I will touch on a few of the points that were made along the way, but I do recognise the work on the ground and the issue of moneys being channelled to the point where they are making a real difference in terms of natural resource management. That is a key to this overall future strategy, and that is why we are so keen to get it in place so that we can establish the necessary frameworks to get the on-ground work under way.
As Mr Rockliff pointed out in his contribution to the House, I am aware obviously, because I have seen it happening right around the State, of an enormous amount of good work that has happened in the past. That is not to say that we do not admit to the fact that there has been quite a bit of bureaucracy involved in the way that things have operated in the past. There have been many reports written and various assessments done and there is lots of paperwork around in nicely-bound folders to suggest that there has been work happening in terms of establishing priorities et cetera, but there has always been the need to ensure that we actually channel that money into the projects specifically where we have those volunteers working on the ground and doing so much in terms of natural resource management.
It is fair to say, though, from our point of view, that there has been always as part of the criteria from the Commonwealth an agenda to ensure that we follow set procedures before we actually get the money, which means that a lot of the bureaucracy that has been established in the past has been basically forced upon us. I think most people accept that, but I am prepared to accept that bureaucracy associated with funding in the past has meant that people do get frustrated, and we need to make sure that we do better in that regard.
I think the regional committees themselves will be much broader than they have been in the past, and I want to touch on that from a couple of points of view - certainly from the point of view of disclosure, as Mr Hidding has just pointed out, and also from the point of view of getting a range of people from the community and the size of the committees overall to ensure that we do get a regional response to natural resource management, because that is really what this is all about. We want the regions with overarching bodies - for example, the Cradle Coast Authority - given that we need to be in a position where funding is managed in the appropriate way, to be able to take a regional approach to natural resource management and ensure that the priorities that are adopted for money to be spent are in line with the regional response in a whole range of areas.
Of course, they differ in the various regions. We talk particularly about the local government jurisdictions or the phone book or where the newspapers are sent out, but in terms of Tasmania overall, in the north-west, the north and the south, there are large differences in the topography of those areas and different issues associated with natural resource management. All those things need to be taken into consideration in an overall regional response. It is pretty easy to say that you can define little areas where the work needs to be done, and you can understand that if communities were dominated by a particular view that work would always be channelled into particular areas of importance seen by a minority, but the situation we are trying to get into here is where we have a regional response that takes into consideration a whole wide range of issues, right across the regions. For example, in the north-west, King Island is an important part of that region and their issues are totally different in many respects to many of the other issues that are operating in other parts of the State. So all of these things need to be taken into consi deration and I recognise that it is important that we take and have a strategic regional approach and that is why I think it is so important that these regional committees themselves are adopted with a view to expressing that.
I think that has been reflected in the work that has already been done on the ground and the fact that we have been in a position to have those consultative meetings. I think people generally understand what we are trying to achieve via the adoption of this legislation.
I think the issue was raised of monitoring what is happening on the ground. As I mentioned in the second reading speech, Mr Deputy Speaker, we are in a position where, through the council and the role of and interaction between the two that we have monitoring, we understand what is going on across the whole State. So I think from the review point of view that is important. We did mention that the five-year review process is in place but we have not restricted in the legislation the ability to review as we go on through that period.
Generally the review process that you highlighted, Mr Rockliff, is an important message that we have to send as part of the overall establishment of the committees themselves that we want to be in a position where we are constantly reviewing - with the changing processes and changing sets of circumstances which often prevail - just how the committees have been operating and whether the regions themselves, the communities and those people on the ground are satisfied that the committee structure, the make-up of the committee, the work that is being done and the effort that has been involved is happening in a proper and coordinated way. I think that the bill covers that quite well and I am satisfied that that will happen.
In terms of the devolution of funds generally, I think that Tasmania has been better than most other States in devolving funds in the past and even though, as I said, the bureaucracy is attached to it, we have been able to take a sensible approach in the main. I know that the regional structures we have put in place will much better ensure that we devolve or give responsibility for the spending of those moneys to those regional committees in areas of the regions where they are most needed for proper natural resource management.
In terms of the bilateral agreements raised by Ms Putt, I did take some advice on this and I do not think that there have been any bilateral agreements actually established or formalised anywhere in the country at this stage. That is not to say that we are not working hard to establish the position here, but I am also aware that there have been interim measures put in place to allow for funding to flow so that is ongoing, but it is important that we do get those bilateral agreements up, so I take the point that you have made on that.
I thought that the point you made about skills in working together on these types of committees was a very good one and I will ask the department to consider if there is any necessary training for people to gain something from their participation, especially working together. That is a very good point and it is in line with what we have talked about in the past about consultation and taking people from the community to work with the community.
I have been very impressed by the number of roles taken by community members. I will not go into the specifics here today but it has highlighted to me that if you get people involved at the coalface and give them a genuine role with devolved responsibility they take that very seriously and it is a good way to get the community working together at a local level. Since becoming minister, I have been able to talk to some of these people and I have been very impressed to see just how excited they have been about the progress they have made and the work that has happened under their guidance over a period of time. So I do take that message. I think it is a good one and something that we need to think about and, as I said, I will ask the department to see whether there is any necessary training that can be undertaken.
Mr GREEN - Mr Deputy Speaker, on the point that you raised, Ms Putt, in relation to the regions and the fact that the Cradle Coast Authority is likely to be responsible and, as a result of that, the priorities shift from natural resource management to other priorities within the authority, I think it is important that we make sure that during the review process we understand fully that the major thrust of the work - or all of the thrust for that matter - that is being done is within the regional committee and its management of natural resources and the funds that come are not influenced by that at all. This is simply a body to ensure that the funding that comes in is administered in the proper way and that we have a situation where, as a result of that, there is an understanding, as I tried to say before the luncheon adjournment, that we have a total regional approach to natural resource management, so there is a better understanding of that.
I do not see that it is appropriate that there be other influences from the authority over the committee to that point, just as there should not be from the State Government or other quarters influence over or domination of the regional committees - or the council for that matter, given that that is really what this is all about. But I do take your point and there is a slight element of risk I suppose by moving forward to this point where we do allow the authorities, like the Cradle Coast Authority, to have the ability to set up a regional committee.
I take the point you make about the interesting dilemmas that we have within the department from time to time with various responses. I know that on a whole range of committees there are various bodies that are part of those committees, the Tasmanian Conservation Trust and State government funds are on a number of committees as we know - there is a whole range of competing interests when -
Ms Putt - The State Government doesn't fund the Conservation Trust.
Mr GREEN - Yes, we do. I wrote out a cheque for $30 000 not long ago.
Ms Putt - That's very generous of you. You never used to when I was director. Are you sure?
Mr GREEN - Yes.
Ms Putt - Well, there you go. I'll eat my words.
Mr GREEN - Thirty bags of sand is the figure I seem to remember on the cheque. I admit that there are competing interests in the department in a whole range of areas and I am sure that you are going to highlight that to me over a long period - or at least the four years of the Government. That is something that you are going to be looking to highlight and I admit that it is something that I have been very conscious of. But I do not see that as necessarily having an impact on the types of committees that we are talking about here. With the point that you raised about education and conflict resolution, all those sorts of things, people need to go into these things with an open mind, run their arguments and let them be weighed up. As long as I am satisfied that the committee has the right mix of skills and all those other things, I expect that committee to function in a proper and appropriate way. I do not expect those sorts of conflicts to lead to the breakdown of the committee but, if they do, there are mechanisms within the current bill with which we can address that.
Mr Hidding's comments about the disclosure elements once again highlight that very same point. We want people to take an active role. It is a very similar situation to that when anybody takes an active role in the community: obviously they are going to have some influences that have, in the first place, brought them to where they are. But that does not detract from the fact that they should be able to make a serious contribution to any of the discussions that are held at a formal level within the committee. It is appropriate, if it comes to a vote and they are likely to be impacted from the financial point of view, that they do stand aside. I am very happy with that model, Mr Deputy Speaker. I think it is something we perhaps should look at in a whole range of areas.
With regard to the point that was made about Wilson Tuckey and the roads-to-recovery program and all those sorts of funds, it is interesting that at a Federal level they are thinking about it from that point of view, when you consider that every State and Territory in the country is under a Labor government. It might be just the way to skirt round funnelling that money through the State Government. I do not think it has ever been about wasting the funds; no accusations have ever been made about that to my knowledge. It is really about how you can get the best mileage out of the funding that comes through from the Commonwealth to the State. But nevertheless, this is not the case with these particular models and it is important that we work through the processes with the Commonwealth to ensure that we have the appropriate framework in place so that we can deliver the outcomes, particularly on the ground, that we would want to.
I do see this bill as very important to the future of sustainable natural resource management for the State and once again, Mr Deputy Speaker, I commend it to the House. I do thank those members who made a contribution to the debate. I am not sure whether there are going to be any questions asked in Committee but, if there are, I am happy to resolve the Parliament into committee.
Bill read the second time.