Tuesday 20 June 2017
Hansard of the Legislative Council

Friends of Trevallyn Reserve

Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, volunteer groups throughout Tasmania are carrying out tasks that would otherwise have to be tackled by government.  They deserve government support and some of them receive it.  However, there is one key problem for volunteer groups, especially those that take on outside work such as weed eradication, tree planting and general bushcare.  I will come to that problem shortly.

First I want to talk about the role of a very successful volunteer group in my electorate, the Friends of Trevallyn Reserve.  The friends group was started in 2001 by Jenny and Jon Purtell and Anna Povey.  Members of the group tackle problems in the Trevallyn Reserve at weekends.  Anna Povey, who is still on the management committee, says they give a good 'bang for buck' because they receive a grant of just a few hundred dollars a year to help with the odd shovel here and there, gloves and that sort of thing.  Then they just get on with the work without having to spend time on things like fundraising.  The cash grant comes from Landcare Tasmania, which has to be saluted for the work it is doing.  No doubt we will talk more about them as the year unfolds.

The Friends of Trevallyn Reserve - FoTR - group works mostly on its own.  Sometimes it asks for assistance.  If weed patches are too large or too difficult to cut and paint or dig out, it asks the relevant authorities to come in and spray them.  The bushland they look after covers council and state reserves, and the group has a very good relationship with the Parks and Wildlife Service, the Launceston City Council and the West Tamar Council.  These authorities help by providing herbicide, knowing it is worth spraying the weeds because the FoTR can be relied on to do the follow-up control and it is not wasted.  The friends get moral and practical support. 

The FoTR's main initial problem was insurance.  Anna Povey says the insurance burden can be such that many potential groups do not even get started because of it - it is too big a stumbling block.  The friends came into being because the Wildcare organisation sorted out its insurance.  Wildcare makes the insurance aspect easy and it is free, as long a few members are Wildcare members so they can be listed as a Wildcare group.  Not all volunteer groups can qualify and receive that easy insurance cover.  I argue that in this circumstance the Government could step in to help. 

The public liability burden hampers a lot of activity in Tasmania.  It is very severe.  If I think back to when I first came into parliament, 15 years ago, public liability was very severe and a real stumbling block for a lot of activity.  To a certain extent we should look, as we did then, at how New Zealand tackles this problem.  We could do it through legislation; perhaps a body like our very successful MAIB - the Motor Accident Insurance Board - could help volunteer and other groups with insurance, probably a public liability insurance board or something like that. 

I will get back to Friends of Trevallyn Reserve because I know time is limited.  All such groups need a few key people to enable the contributions of a much larger group of people.  These key people need to be supported and encouraged so they do not burn out.  They must not be overwhelmed with things like insurance, safety and the fundraising hassles that go with a group and with activities like this.  Anna Povey also argues that bushcare officers or volunteer coordinators should be within the Parks and Wildlife Service and on local councils because they can help set up and support groups.

It seems like a good idea.  A lot more work could be done for very little money.  I salute the work of the Friends of Trevallyn Reserve.