Continued debate on the Environment Protection Authority (Air Quality) Policy
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK ( 16:25 ): I move:
That the Environment Protection (Air Qu ality) Policy 2016 pursuant to s ection 28 of the Environment Protection Act 1993, made on 21 July 2016 and laid on the table of this council on 26 July 2016 , be disallowed.
This motion relates to a disallowance of an environment protection policy (EPP). Please allow me to explain. It is the Environment Protection (Air Quality) Policy relating to burning in the open, which has caused some concern in the Adelaide Hills, where it is going to have the biggest change to the regulations. I must declare at the outset that, as a resident of Bridgewater, I am one of the people who is affected by this particular change.
The EPA has been reviewing various drafts of an environment protection air quality policy which will, among other things, replace the existing Environment Protection (Burning) Policy of 1994. The new policy came into effect on 23 July. Under the previous rules, domestic burning was allowed, under section 5(3), between 10am and 3pm from Monday to Saturday within certain council areas which were not prohibited by schedule 1 or, under section 5(5)(d), by a permit provided specifically for reducing fuel loads.
The EPA states that the intent of the policy is to better protect and improve the health of the community in the environment by regulating and managing air quality in line with contemporary practices, and streamlining and clarifying administration. Other than the matter of burning in the open, the policy contains standards about solid fuel heaters, smoke and the types of fuels that can be burned. A range of public meetings was organised, but the feedback is that they were not well known about, particularly by a number of locals, so there were meetings during November and December last year and then a further consultation phase, which took place in March and April of this year.
The main change that has caused confusion with the new rules is this issue of burning in the open. Burning in the open was previously captured in a separate policy, which stipulated that councils could opt in to a permit scheme, and a majority of metropolitan councils did choose to participate in that particular policy. The Adelaide Hills Council had chosen not to participate and therefore was exempt from the rules, and local residents did not actually require a permit.
The new policy provides that, if you are located within metropolitan Adelaide and within townships, councils may choose to issue individual permits, or they may also issue a general notice to allow burning off for bushfire hazard reduction and disposal of agricultural and forestry waste. If you live outside the metropolitan area, burning off for bushfire hazard reduction and disposal of agricultural and forestry waste may occur at any time outside of the fire season. It is up to each individual council to determine which system they adopt.
I think it is fair to say that a number of residents have contacted members of parliament who are located within the Adelaide Hills Council catchment. Those include the members for Morialta, Heysen and Bragg. The Adelaide Hills Council is undergoing its consultation process and has placed some information on its website. The minister has been asked about this issue in this place and he has confirmed that councils will not be required to advise the EPA of their preferred method. I think it has been taking some time for the Adelaide Hills Council to determine what rules it will apply and what criteria it will use for providing permits and so forth.
The Mount Barker Courier, which has clearly been following this issue quite closely, reported in its weekly paper of 27 July 2016 that rural landowners around Stirling, Mylor, Piccadilly and Norton Summit will be allowed to burn off before the fire danger season. However, those living within township boundaries will not be allowed to burn off for bushfire prevention purposes, unless there are exceptional circumstances. I think that has caused quite a bit of concern. Clearly, the Adelaide Hills is a very highly bushfire-prone area in terms of the topography and the amount of vegetation and a large population area.
I think there is ongoing concern for people who are located within townships as to whether or not they will be allowed to burn off on their blocks. The reason for this disallowance motion is that this matter is currently before the Environment, Resources and Development Committee. Given that the policy was gazetted in July, we were running out of time to move a disallowance motion, so this is, in effect, a holding motion under section 30 of the Environment Protection Act.
We have 14 sitting days, after which we can move a disallowance motion, so this holding motion is to allow debate in the Legislative Council. Our Environment, Resources and Development Committee is still hearing from witnesses and is yet to determine what recommendation it will make to the minister once we have concluded taking evidence. For that reason, I needed to move this motion so that we at least have the opportunity in the Legislative Council, if we so determine, to disallow these regulations at a later date. I seek leave to conclude my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.