I move amendment No. 5b:
In page 10, line 42, to delete "is" and substitute "may".
Section 12 is a very important section and is related to the area we have been discussing in our attempt to delete subsection (5) from section 11. This section seeks to set out the lines of demarcation between the Minister for Lands, exercising his functions and authority under this legislation, and the various other Ministers and institutions of State. To that extent this is a very crucial section and one which has a very important bearing on the very basis of the operation of this legislation.
It is not difficult to envisage the provision of section 12 becoming of critical importance to the Minister for Lands in the exercise of his functions. Various suggestions are made from time to time by people interested in the area of the conservation of wildlife and associated areas, that there should be a Minister for Conservation. One Minister should be charged solely with the responsibility for the preservation and protection of our environment.
This legislation impinges on that area. It does not set out to make the Minister for Lands our Minister for the Environment, but it sets out to give him very important functions in the area of the preservation and protection of our natural environment. Therefore, it is very important that this legislation sets out as clearly as possible where the demarcation of authority will be and what say the Minister for Lands will have in the exercise of his powers under this Bill over the actions and policies of his colleagues and other State and semi-State bodies and agencies.
We are dissatisfied with section 12 as it stands. We do not think it gives the Minister for Lands sufficient standing to enable him to discharge his functions satisfactorily. Unfortunately, the section does not go far enough and in amendments Nos. 5b to 5e we seek to strengthen the section and to ensure that the Minister for Lands will have some degree of authority over his colleagues and the general machinery of the State in the interests of wildlife conservation.
The first of these amendments proposes to delete "is" and substitute "may". It should be quite clear why we have put down this amendment. Section 12 at the moment, in subsection (2) (a), stipulates that "before determining any matter or doing anything which is, in his or their opinion, or is represented by the Minister to the other Minister of State, or the authority or body to be likely or liable to affect, or to interfere with, the suitability for a nature reserve or refuge", and so on, a Minister for State other than the Minister, and every authority or body to which the section applies, shall consult the Minister as regards the avoidance or minimising of such effect or interference. The amendment would broaden the scope of the provision because as it is the subsection would be very restricted. It should be beyond doubt a matter in which wildlife conservation would be involved. We want to ensure that where any of these people or bodies are of the opinion that what is about to be done might impinge on the conservation of wildlife, the provision of the subsection will come into effect.
If paragraph (a) is studied it will be seen why this amendment is necessary. At the moment the subsection confines its operation to cases in which the Minister or State agency or body might interfere with the suitability for a nature reserve or refuge of land to which an establishment order, a recognition order or a designation order should apply, and so on. That is restrictive. It means that before the provisions of the section can come into operation, what the other body or person or Minister is about to do must impinge on all of these things. We want to broaden that and to make it the position that where what the Minister or authority or body are about to do would affect or impinge on wildlife conservation generally, this provision shall apply and not just in regard to particular restricted areas. That is a reasonable expansion. Section 12 at the moment is limited to the point where it would be ineffective if its provisions are to apply to the particular things.
In Chapter II, section 15, the Bill sets out to have a number of new situations. It deals with the establishment of nature reserves and the management of lands owned by the Minister or by the State. Section 16 deals with the establishment of nature reserves on private lands. It deals with the direction of the Minister for Lands that certain private lands should be refuges for fauna; and section 17 deals with agreements about the manner in which certain lands are to be used. That is a fairly confined segment of the activities of the Minister and of his performance in regard to this legislation, confining itself to State lands, private lands to be regarded as reserves and private lands which will become the refuges of fauna, as well as lands in relation to which agreement is reached between the Minister and the owners. In effect, we want to say that where any Minister or other body is about to do something which in their opinion may impinge on wildlife in general, and not on these particular lands, the provisions of section 12 will have effect.
In amendment No. 5d we seek to amend paragraph (b) of subsection (2). As it stands at the moment the paragraph stipulates:
take all practicable steps to avoid or minimise such effect or interference.
That leaves the situation very wide. Who is to decide what the practicable steps are to be—the Minister, the commissioners or the statutory body? Is the decision to be left to them or any one of them? As the section stands it is. Any of these bodies or any Minister could, first of all, unilaterally decide whether the actions would impinge and also decide what practicable steps should be taken. Our amendment seeks to delete "all practicable steps" and substitute "such steps as may be indicated by the Minister to be necessary". Our aim is to strengthen the section by inserting in it the provision that the steps that are to be taken to avoid the ill-effects of any action by these bodies would be decided by the Minister for Lands and that it would not be left at large to be decided by the person himself or somebody else.
Amendment No. 5e sets out to change the whole impact of subsection (3), which removes from the operation of subsection (2) various things, first of all anything done in an emergency. That is all right, but the subsection also removes the functions of the Minister for Local Government or a planning authority under sections 3 and 4 of the 1963 Planning and Development Act, or Part V of that Act other than sections 47 to 49. It removes the Minister for Local Government as planning Minister and it removes planning authorities from the provisions of subsection (2). They can proceed to do what they like without any reference to what effect their action will have on the conservation of wildlife or on the nature reserves and refuges established by the Minister, if this section is to remain in its present form.
As it stands, subsection (3) would exempt from the operation of subsection (2) the functions of the Commissioners of Public Works under the Arterial Drainage Acts, 1945 and 1955. That is a ridiculous situation. Section 12 would be largely inoperative if the Commissioners of Public Works could proceed with their arterial drainage schemes without any regard to the impact of those schemes on the nature reserves which this Bill goes to great trouble to enable the Minister to establish.
The effect of amendment 5e would be to restrict the operation of subsection (3) to cases of emergency. Subsection (3) would then read:
Subsection (2) of this section shall not apply in relation to any determination made or anything done in an emergency.
In other words, the provisions of subsection (2) would be operative except where there is an emergency. All these other people would have to have regard to the provisions of subsection (2) if they were doing anything that, in their opinion or in the opinion of the Minister for Lands, might affect nature reserves and refuges as the Bill states at present, and also the conservation of wildlife in general as we would like it.
I hope I have not taken too long over that. I considered it necessary to explain that the four amendments must be taken together. Their overall purpose is to make section 12 worth while and meaningful and to ensure that in future where a local authority, the Commissioners of Public Works, a State body or any other Minister is about to do something which in their opinion might impinge detrimentally on the conservation of wildlife or on the nature reserves or refuges established by the Minister they shall have to have regard to this legislation in what they are doing and shall have to take whatever steps the Minister for Lands considers necessary to minimise the effect of their actions. The only exception would be where any of the bodies do something in an emergency situation. In that case we are exempting them from the necessity to consult with the Minister for Lands and to take whatever measures he lays down.
Taken together, these four amendments considerably improve section 12 and make it worth while. As it is the crucial section to the whole administration of this legislation, I urge the Minister to accept them. I do not think that he can on reasonable grounds object to our strengthening section 12 in this way so far as he is concerned.