Click here to read my speech on the Native Vegetation (Road Verges) Amendment Bill
Mr WINGARD ( Mitchell ) ( 16:07 ): I rise in support of this bill and the amendments put forward by the member for Morphett and note a number of the concerns raised by members, particularly on this side of the house, about the fire dangers from overgrown native vegetation on road verges. We do see a lot of this. Probably now being the middle of winter it is not talked about all that much, but we know that in the bushfire season in the middle of summer the growth on roadsides and its relation to bushfires is incredibly influential and important as far as being fuel for bushfires is concerned.
I note the amendments here that are raised about improving road safety, which is another area and a fact that is dear to my heart, but the amendments to this bill talk about how the native vegetation may be cleared without any other restriction under the act if the clearance occurs on a road verge and is reasonably required for road safety purposes, as I mentioned, and to reduce the fuel load on the road verge, hence the concern surrounding bushfires.
It also talks about how the road verge means the area of land adjacent to a public road bound by the edge of the carriageway of the road, if the boundary of the property adjacent to the road is not more than 20 metres away from the carriageway of the road or the boundary, or in any other case a line running parallel to the edge of the carriageway of the road at a distance of 20 metres. You see in a lot of places—in rural areas, some of the Hills areas in South Australia and even down south where there is heavy bushland—that on the road verge there is a big fuel being built up. If people want to come along and remove this fuel to help prevent bushfires, I think it can only be a very positive thing. The member for Morphett, also the shadow minister in this area, has spoken with the CFS, the SES, the MFS and local government and he has received support from quite a number of people in these areas and they can see real benefits in what he is putting forward.
From a road safety perspective, I think we should perhaps look at things right across the board as far as trees on the side of the road are concerned. The chair of the Motor Accident Commission, Roger Cook, said earlier this year that some of the trees on the side of roads really need to be looked at because they are in high risk zones. I think there is a lot of merit in that. Last year's road toll was exceptionally high and, as it stands today, South Australia's road toll is at 65, which is not tracking where we want it to be. Overgrowth and trees on roadsides in high risk areas are things that I think should be looked at and assessed. I think what the member for Morphett is trying to do through his amendments with regard to road verge shrubage and reducing fuel load is very positive.
Another group that I have worked with very closely is the O'Halloran Hill Recreation Park. There are some wonderful people up there doing some really great work: Don Webster, John Bollinger, Toni Beaty and Peter Haarsma. I have been out there weeding with them, pulling the olive trees out, and it has given me a great insight. They are great people doing some wonderful things. I learn a lot going through the O'Halloran Hill Recreation Park with these guys, and also with Michelle Lensink from the other place, pulling out some of these olive trees. The way these olive trees (which are weeds in fact) grow, the way they sprout, the way their seed is dropped by birds and foxes, it really is very hard to remove them. So, if we can get stuff removed, we really must do all we can to get rid of it, especially when it is fuel for bushfire in the fire danger season.
When I was up at O'Halloran Hill working with these people, it was quite amazing to learn about the way these weeds, as I call them (the olive trees), actually sustain themselves and grow. The volunteers have to do some very specific work to get in and drill into the core, in the lignum tubes around the roots of these olive trees. They have to drill in and drop in poison. These volunteers do an absolutely superb job; they really help the state and save money for the department by doing this work. And they work very closely with the rangers. I know rangers in these recreation parks have had their hours reduced dramatically over recent times, so to have these volunteers is invaluable. As I said, they go around and drill holes in all the lignum tubes, pouring in the poison to kill these trees. They have to be very quick because they only have a matter of seconds after they drill the hole and drop this poison in before the holes close over. The tree can actually protect itself from the poison.
This is the sort of work that is being done out there by people trying to help our environment and our recreation parks. It rolls over to roadside verges as well. We have great people out there wanting to do great work; they can come along and actually help the department, help do the work and help make roadside verges safer by reducing the fuel load for the bushfire season. That, in part, is a big part of the reason why I support the amendments put forward by the member for Morphett. It would be great to get more people helping out and carrying the load, like the great people up at the O'Halloran Hill Recreation Park are doing to reduce the burden on that park.
If you actually look at that park and the scarring and the olive trees that have infested that great reserve up in my local community, in my electorate, and see what these people do to help alleviate the problems we have there, it is outstanding. If we could roll that model over and remove dangerous vegetation along road verges that only enhance bushfires come bushfire season, it could only be beneficial to South Australia.
Debate adjo urned on motion of Dr McFetridge .