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Monday, 9 August 2004
Page: 25968

Senator Allison asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 11 June 2004:

(1) Does the Federal Government intend to burn Point Nepean bushland as suggested in the Age on 25 May 2004; if so: (a) will the burn be a high intensity burn; (b) how will the Government ensure the safety of such a burn over a former defence site which probably has unexploded ammunitions buried in the land; and (c) how will the sensitive Moonah woodland be protected.

(2) Has the trust deed for Point Nepean been signed; if so, can a copy be provided.

(3) If the trust deed has not been signed: (a) why not; and (b) what is the reason for the delay.

Senator Hill (Minister for Defence) —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) The Australian Government has committed to handing over 205 hectares of Defence land at Point Nepean to the Victorian Government for an integrated national park. The Australian Government has accepted responsibility for the clearance of unexploded ordnance (UXO) at Point Nepean.

Defence engaged a specialist consultant to advise on the most appropriate mechanism to safely clear the UXO. The consultant proposed a slow-moving low-intensity burn to reduce the groundcover and understorey fuel load to an extent that would enable a UXO contractor to identify and remove UXO items in a safe and environmentally responsible manner.

Defence referred this proposed action to undertake a controlled burn and remove UXO from specified locations within the Defence land under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) on 16 April 2003. On 10 June 2003, the Department of the Environment and Heritage decided the proposal is not a controlled action under the Act, provided it is undertaken in accordance with agreed fire and weed management plans.

Defence is currently consulting with the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment and the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council regarding the fire and weed management plans.

I must emphasise that at this stage, no final decision has been made by the Government to proceed with the clearance of UXO based on this option. The Government will be guided in its decision by the need to ensure the highest level of safety and environmental management for the clearance of UXO.

(a) Refer to (1) above.

(b) If the Government decides to proceed with the proposed action, specific protocols and measures will be employed during the controlled burn to ensure the safety of the public, personnel and the environment from UXO that may be present.

(c) If the Government decides to proceed with the proposed action, the burn will be of slow-moving low-intensity and will be managed to ensure that significant damage to Coastal Moonah Woodland does not occur. Weed management strategies will be implemented post-burn to assist regeneration.

(2) Yes. A copy of the Deed of Settlement of Trust Point Nepean Community Trust has been forwarded separately to your office.

(3) Not applicable.