Prospect-Guildford Water Supply Canal
PROSPECT-GUILDFORD WATER SUPPLY CANAL
Mr SCULLY (Smithfield) [5.20]: I wish to raise a matter of extreme concern to the residents of Greystanes and Merrylands West in my electorate concerning the proposal by the property section of the Water Board that the water supply canal which runs from Prospect Reservoir to pipe head at Guildford be sold and developed as medium density housing. I am reliably informed that this proposal is being seriously considered by the board. This would be an act of gross environmental degradation and should not be permitted. The Water Board is currently constructing underground pipes which will run from the proposed filtration plant to pipe head, rendering the open canal obsolete in terms of the water provision to the people of Sydney.
I cannot understand how this Government can seriously claim that it is concerned about the environment when this urban vandalism proposed by
the Water Board is being allowed by the Premier, the Minister responsible for the Water Board and the Minister for the Environment. This Government is only interested in flogging off valuable open space heritage in western Sydney so it can spend the money on the north shore or in rural areas. The canal was constructed about 100 years ago and is of great heritage value. It leaks a large amount of water that feeds a number of small ponds and creeks, which in turn have provided havens for many and varied bird life that, but for the canal, would not appear in such an otherwise urbanised area. These include but are not limited to cockatoos, parrots and kookaburras. In fact, the Cumberland Bird Observers Club has informed me that up to 130 different species of birds have been observed from time to time along the canal.
The canal runs for about seven kilometres and is about four metres wide but is contained in a beautiful open space corridor of up to 100 metres in width in some parts. The constituents of this part of my electorate are up in arms about it and are outraged. They share my outrage at western Sydney losing this beautiful area to medium density housing and for whatever other profit making venture the Water Board proposes to dream up. I have received more than 300 letters and more than 30 phone calls from people expressing extreme opposition to any proposal other than the canal and the surrounding land on either side being left for open space purposes. The Water Board commissioned a report in January 1993 on the value of vegetation along the canal, and it was suggested that the canal land, like other remnants of open space in western Sydney, could be regarded as "an important fauna link between the large bushland areas and national parks in the north and south of the city, in addition to forming a tenuous east-west corridor through the heavily developed western suburbs".
The honourable member for Blacktown, who from next March will be the Minister responsible for the Water Board, has given me a categorical assurance that the canal will be protected as a heritage item of great value and that the land surrounding the canal will be left in public ownership in perpetuity for the benefit of the people of western Sydney. This would allow it to be opened up for walkways, cycleways, children's playgrounds, and barbeque areas. It would allow the greening Australia program to plant thousands of trees along its banks and make it a haven for birds and, of course, for families to enjoy on weekends and in their leisure time. The honourable member for Moorebank, who is the chairman of the parliamentary Labor Party task force on urban affairs, has visited the site and has formally endorsed this assurance and is strongly opposed to its being developed for housing or for anything other than public purposes.
I ask the Minister for the Environment, through the Minister for Industrial Relations and Employment, where is the Environment Protection Authority? What is it doing to protect the urban environment of western Sydney? Why has not the Water Board conducted an environmental impact statement into what is a gross act of vandalism? What is this Government doing to protect the environment of western Sydney? Come election time in March next year, I will be saying to the people of my electorate, particularly those in Greystanes and Merrylands West, that a vote for Labor is a vote to keep the canal and the surrounding land in public hands, but a vote for the Liberal Party is a vote for environmental vandalism and a loss of the canal and the surrounding lands.
Mrs CHIKAROVSKI (Lane Cove - Minister for Industrial Relations and Employment, and Minister for the Status of Women) [5.25]: Though I do not know the details of the particular matter to which the honourable member for Smithfield refers, I assure honourable members that this Government has a good record on matters relating to the environment. This Government is genuinely concerned about the environment and not about making cheap political points. I note that the honourable member said he has received 300 letters. The issue is obviously a matter of great concern to his electorate. I assume that he has not been dragging the chain and has already raised these matters with the Ministers responsible. If he has failed to do so, obviously he is not as concerned as he makes out. I will ensure that the matters are raised with the responsible Ministers as a matter of urgency.