31 December 2023

From plastic bags to nightlife: the new ACT laws coming into effect on 1 January

| Lizzie Waymouth
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Chris Steel in supermarket

Canberrans will soon be putting their shopping into fabric or paper bags, with heavyweight plastic bags set to be banned in the ACT from 2024. Photo: Chris Steel MLA Facebook.

A ban on heavyweight and boutique plastic bags, reforms for the hospitality sector to improve the night-time economy and new tree protection laws will take effect from 1 January 2024.

From Monday, all single-use shopping bags that are made fully or partially of plastic are banned, including soft plastic bags greater than 35 microns in thickness and bags made from plastic-laminated paper or cardboard.

“The ban on heavyweight and boutique plastic bags builds on the ACT Government’s successful ban of lightweight plastic shopping bags that was introduced in 2021,” City Services Minister Tara Cheyne said.

The ban also follows the phase-out of other single‑use plastic items, which have been introduced in three stages since July 2021. These include single-use plastic plates and bowls, plastic microbeads in rinse-off personal cosmetics and cleaning products, cotton buds with plastic sticks, single-use straws and cutlery and expanded polystyrene takeaway containers.

Minister Cheyne said that the National Retail Association has completed more than 1600 visits to retailers across Canberra on behalf of the ACT Government to raise awareness about the changes. Retailers will continue to be provided with ongoing support now the new law is in force.

The ACT Government will monitor exemptions that will apply for certain plastic bags, such as bags without handles, unsealed bags used to package perishable food such as fruit or cooked poultry, shopping bags made of nylon, polyester or woven polypropylene and non-woven polypropylene bags.

“Whilst heavyweight plastic bags may be re-used, many are being treated as single-use products ending up in landfill or littering our environment,” Minister Cheyne said.

“Canberrans have really embraced the phase-out of single-use plastics to date. Remembering to bring reusable and non-plastic paper bags when heading to the shops is a great way for all Canberrans to participate in the circular economy.”

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New tree protection laws under the Urban Forest Act 2023 will also take effect from 1 January to provide a stronger legal framework to protect, grow and manage Canberra’s trees.

The new laws protect more trees by classifying all public trees as protected and reducing the size requirements for protected trees on private land from 12 metres to 8 metres in height or canopy width.

The new laws also classify dead native trees with a circumference of 1.88 metres or more as protected to provide essential habitat elements for local fauna.

The legislation will encourage existing trees to be retained, and will introduce new requirements to ensure trees that have to be approved to be removed are replaced or, where new planting is not possible, a financial contribution to support tree planting elsewhere.

“If a protected tree is eligible and approved for removal, the applicant will be required to enter into a canopy contribution agreement with the ACT Government,” Minister Cheyne said.

“This disincentivises developers to remove trees in the first place, and if trees have to be removed, it ensures that the canopy cover is replaced, either onsite or through a financial contribution to grow the canopy across Canberra.”

A tree bond system will also be introduced to ensure trees are not damaged during construction work as the city continues to grow.

The ACT Government will expand the ACT Tree Register, which protects Canberra’s most significant trees.

There will also be new measures to encourage compliance, such as the introduction of penalties for people caught damaging a tree or breaching a tree protection plan or direction.

“Trees are one of the reasons Canberra is such a great place to live. They provide significant benefits like shade, cooler temperatures in summer and reduced air pollution,” Minister Cheyne said.

“These new laws will not only retain the leafy character of our city, but make it more resilient to a changing climate by reducing the urban heat island effect.”

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In addition, changes will be introduced to further enhance the ACT’s night‑time economy and foster a more vibrant hospitality sector.

From 1 January 2024, the ACT Government will automatically allow smaller licensed restaurants and cafes to trade until 2 am, reduce liquor licensing fees for smaller restaurants, cafes, bars and general licences, and remove the requirement for general licensed businesses to have separate areas for the sale of liquor for on-premises and off-premises consumption.

“Changes to the licensing requirements for smaller hospitality businesses in the ACT aim to reduce costs and the administrative burden on businesses, encourage extended trading hours and foster innovative business models. This will ultimately contribute to a more dynamic and diverse night-time experience for Canberrans,” Minister Cheyne said.

“These reforms will also encourage new entrants into the market which will drive economic growth and create jobs in the Canberra community.

“Further reforms to be delivered by July 2024, subject to the passage of legislation, will incentivise venues to showcase artists, musicians and other cultural activities and allow all licensed businesses to extend trading hours up to ten times a year at no cost.”

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I’d wager that the gum tres give off little oxygen too.
They don’t lose leaves and grow so slowly that they’d take in very little Co2.

I hope one lands on some of these policies.

Trees have more rights in this country than people.

Those paper bags are made from virgin paper overseas and aren’t made from recycled.

Those bamboo culterly use more plastic (by product of petrol) to make than their plastic counterparts. And made in some countries by child slave labour.

What are the protections that the source of these goods is ok? none.
Whats the alternative. You could burn the plastics, they are a by product of petrol. Burn them hot enough its only CO2. That same CO2 is produced overseas to chop down rainforrests and to harvest the trees to make the replacement products.

Clothing is the biggest polluter. Last seasons designer clothes are dumped on 3rd world and just thrown in the ocean. Yet the upper class parts our our society don’t want to wear the samething twice, quite happy to buy a cheap plastic top because the cotton one would be too expensive to only wear the once.

More than happy to enforce something by laws as long as it doesn’t affect the mindset of their voters.

What a load of rubbish this new tree law is. In the older suburbs gum trees weren’t planted on nature strips so they were less of a bother. Now they are even more protected. Bush capital meant we were located in the ‘bush’ because we were a long way from anywhere – it does not mean we have to surround our home with trees and quake every time there is a storm. Meanwhile roads and paths are being destroyed by weeds and gum tree roots! Wake up ACT gov, get your priorities right.

GrumpyGrandpa7:25 pm 31 Dec 23

I’m someone who has always tried to do the right thing environmentally, but I’m becoming more and more intolerant to the Government regulating how we live and yet going soft on things like drugs, fare evasion on public transport, whether we can cut down a tree in our own backyard etc.

HiddenDragon6:47 pm 31 Dec 23

The long term effect of these “do as we say, not as we do” tree protection laws will be less trees, not more, on the remaining blocks which actually have room for anything more than a manicured shrub, or two and the arbitrarily random arrogation of property rights inherent in these laws (which now make having native tree(s) on your block like winning a reverse lottery) will eventually bite this government on the backside – quite rightly.

Canopy versus solar. One environmental good degrades another.
Our solar has been getting less and less as protected trees grow. Very asymmetric unfair rules, with the whole cost dumped on us. ACTEW routinely orders us, at our expense and over $1000 each time, to ‘damage’ the protected trees to keep them clear of power lines, but, on the other hand, we are not allowed, we have been told, to remove them, or maintain our solar access.

GrumpyGrandpa7:10 pm 01 Jan 24

Spot on Roger S.
Our solar panels are blocked from early afternoon by our next door neighbour’s tree.

When doing an extension to their home, the neighbour sought approval to remove the tree; a tree that also caused us $7,000 in plumbing costs and one that continually fills our respective gutters with leaves, causing us to climb ladders etc. Needless to say, the Government denied the removal request.

A privately owned tree is that. It’s privately owned. Owners should have the right to remove trees from their property.

The stupidity of the ACT Government’s tree laws is that it actually doesn’t encourage people to plant trees. Who would plant a tree? Not me. We have no trees at all.

Gum trees and houses don’t mix!

The ACT Government recycling boffins would have conniptions If they saw what is thrown out after single use at either of Canberra’s public hospitals!

Capital Retro4:41 pm 31 Dec 23

Are body-bags single use items there?

Trish O'Connor1:17 pm 31 Dec 23

wonder how much difference it will make to developers taking out all trees and replacing with concrete and dwellings that take the whole block with no room for a single tree – many examples in Hughes. Sure they might be required to pay some financial contribution but this will surely not discourage with the profit to be made. All sounds good but will not save leafy suburbs.

Hardly a new idea replacing plastic bags with paper ones. That was always the way shopping was packed in the 60s and 70s. The major shops were spending heaos on this so they introduced plastic bags. Now we’re going back in time, just like gas will be in the next 20 years as that was the clean energy in the 90s and incentives given to connect.

So far as the trees are concerned what about the gumtrees planted ages ago which decimated rooves during the last major storm a few weeks ago. The public should take action against the government for that incompetence.

Great that some plastic bags are being banned.

When taking my bottles to ‘return it’ they are in a plastic bag to deposit in shute…….how can I avoid this?

Malcolm Roxburgh12:36 pm 31 Dec 23

What about the gum trees stupidly planted all over Curtin and in peoples back yards in the 60s’? They are health hazards to the community. They tend to loose a branch, when ever they like, damaging houses and other structures. It won’t be long before a child is killed in their own back yard. I think these trees have reached their end of life.

There is a massive, mostly dead gum tree overhanging and waiting to fall on people using the outdoor eating area at the Canberra Yacht Club. It’s trunk is splitting, bark is hanging off and it could fall at any time on families and diners below. But the ACT government won’t allow it’s removal, giving priority to bird roosting spots over human safety.

That would be right.
There’s nothing the ACT Govt loves more than a dangerous old tree. They don’t plant any new ones

That would be right.
There is nothing that the ACT government likes more than a dangerous old tree in the old suburbs. They are depriving their future counterparts of this enjoyment by never planting any new ones that will in their turn become dangerous old trees. However, they approve entire new suburbs with blocks so small that a real tree will never be able to be planted there.

There is nothing that the ACT government likes more than a dangerous old tree in the old suburbs. They are depriving their future counterparts of this enjoyment by never planting any new ones that will in their turn become dangerous old trees. However, they approve entire new suburbs with blocks so small that a real tree will never be able to be planted there.

Why do smart humans choose to put, and use, an outdoor eating area under a dead and dangerous tree?

“There will also be new measures to encourage compliance, such as the introduction of penalties for people caught damaging a tree”
Does that mean, the inept government will fine itself?

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