Unprotected by insurance... trees at the National Arboretum. Photo: Rohan Thomson
The ACT government has no insurance cover on the trees at Canberra's $67 million National Arboretum.
The territory says it has a policy of not insuring trees, but may be able to get cover for the Arboretum's forests by defining the growth a "significant territory cultural asset."
The site, to the west of central Canberra, was a pine plantation that burned in a bushfire in 2001, two years before the devastating blazes that destroyed 500 Canberra homes and killed four people.
The Arboretum, a project 10 years in the making, is to open on Friday with a dawn ceremony attended by ACT and Commonwealth dignitaries.
The project has cost taxpayers about $61 million, including a $20 million donation from the Commonwealth government. The total projected capital cost of the attraction is $67 million.
When complete the 250-hectare hillside site will have about 42,000 trees planted in 50 forests.
A spokesman for Chief Minister Katy Gallagher confirmed that the buildings and infrastructure were covered by insurance, but the all-important trees were not.
"The built assets at the Arboretum are currently covered through the ACT Insurance Authority," he said.
"Arboretum trees are currently not insured; however the government policy of not insuring its trees is being reviewed through Treasury and the ACT Insurance Authority, with a view to insuring the Arboretum forests. This is on the basis that the Arboretum is a significant territory cultural asset."
The government says it has taken the necessary precautions to prevent the Arboretum catching fire.
"TAMS [Territory and Municipal Services] Fire Unit and the Arboretum management have been regularly meeting to discuss fire management on and around the Arboretum site," the spokesman for Ms Gallagher said.
"The Arboretum is an intensively managed site where regular slashing keeps the grass height to well below 10 centimetres
"There is a 100-metre-wide strip directly against the boundary which has been fenced and additional water supplies installed to enable targeted strategic grazing to occur in this location.
"This strip has been burnt in the past to facilitate effective grazing on the fresh grass. A further fuel reduction burn will be conducted west of the Arboretum this autumn."
About $3.3 million has been allocated from the territory's annual budget to run the Arboretum and private fund-raising efforts are gaining momentum with 200 "foundation memberships" to go on sale this month for $10,000 each.
Ms Gallagher's office said it believed the Arboretum's ability to generate income would improve over time.
Visiting motorists will be expected to contribute, with car-parking fees at the site to be $2 an hour or $7 for an all-day space.