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Thursday, 27 May 2004
Page: 29423

Mr SIDEBOTTOM (9:51 AM) —The recent claim made by Senator Eric Abetz in the Advocate newspaper on 18 May 2004 that the Tasmanian government had spent 60 per cent of funds for the Private Forest Reserve Program on administration was incorrect. The senator's comments show a lack of understanding of this important environmental program. He might learn more about it if he were to consult the speech I made in this parliament on 13 May 2004 to explain it. The last annual report of the program—and I know my colleague the member for Franklin will be interested in this—showed that 60 per cent of all program costs since 1997 had been paid directly to landowners. Only 23 per cent of expenses were for salaries and office costs. The other program costs included 17 per cent spent on legal, valuation, survey and negotiation fees—something that you would expect when you are dealing with the Private Forest Reserve Program.

The program provides financial incentives to landowners to protect important areas of native forest on private land in perpetuity, mainly by registering a perpetual conservation covenant on a land title. These protected areas on private land are part of Australia's Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative Reserve System. The PFRP has now established 149 forest reserves and 21 other reserves covering an area of 27,781 hectares. I know that they have in their sights 62,000 hectares or more for preservation. The cost effectiveness of the program has set a benchmark for conservation programs not just here but worldwide in securing areas of very high conservation value in perpetuity. The once-only cost of securing protection of these important forests on private land in perpetuity is $506 per hectare. That takes into account all program costs.

Perhaps Senator Abetz could indicate a conservation program anywhere that secures perpetual conservation of such important areas on private land more cost effectively than the Private Forest Reserve Program in Tasmania. Once again, Senator Abetz has got it wrong. I urge him and his Liberal colleagues to back my call for an extension to this program beyond June 2004—an extension not yet officially agreed to by Minister Kemp, contrary to assurances by his unnamed spokesperson that the program will continue.