Lake Macquarie State Recreation Area Bill
LAKE MACQUARIE STATE RECREATION AREA BILL
Debate resumed from 22 September.
Mr HUMPHERSON (Davidson) [10.53]: I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak to this bill. As other Government members have said, this bill, presented by the honourable member for Lake Macquarie, is illogical, poorly thought out, shonky and ill-planned. There has been little or no consultation with the various agencies and parties involved who propose to play a part. The bill aims to reserve six separate areas on the foreshores of Lake Macquarie as a single State recreation area under the provisions of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974. The honourable member with the carriage of this private member's bill has not consulted or sought the support of the relevant Ministers, the Minister for Land and Water Conservation and the Minister with responsibility for national parks and wildlife.
Mr Souris: In fact, he pulled out - by way of press release - of discussions and consultation that was going on.
Mr HUMPHERSON: The Minister has just said that the honourable member pulled out of discussion with him, by way of press release. The honourable member for Lake Macquarie wants to unilaterally impose this bill on the relevant agencies and Ministers without regard to the implications it will have on the operation of those agencies - or to the significant amount of staff time, agency time and cost involved in organising and preparing relevant meetings which the honourable member pulled out of. The bill has been a farce. Issues that have come to light since the bill was presented to this House make it clear that, with poor planning and lack of consultation in the early stages, the bill is doomed to fail. It is the most irresponsible and poorly presented and drafted bill that has ever been placed before the House. It is an example of how poor ideas, poor preparation and lack of consultation can translate into bad legislation.
Mr Souris: It is constantly changing.
Mr HUMPHERSON: The Minister says that the honourable member for Lake Macquarie has made a succession of changes to the bill. This emphasises the need for a bill to be well prepared and planned. The bill provides that six separate pieces of land, as identified, are to be reserved. From the date that reservation takes effect, the lands in question will become Crown lands. The bill also seeks to change the use of land owned by a number of government instrumentalities, a move that will have significant and adverse consequences for the operation of the relevant agencies. Land owned by the land and housing corporation at Awaba Point, owned by Pacific Power at Wangi Wangi South, and used by the health department at Morisset, will be removed from the control of those agencies without any form of compensation. This is a regressive, retrograde step in the transfer of assets and creates a highly undesirable precedent. It should not and cannot be supported.
The cost of the land involved is significant. Without regard to the vacant Crown land or land reserved for public recreation, the lands identified for inclusion in the proposed State recreation area are conservatively valued at over $5 million - of the order of $5.3 million. The following figures give an indication of the value of these individual portions: land owned by the Electricity Commission near Chain Valley valued at $700,000; land at Wangi Wangi South owned by Pacific Power valued at $250,000; and land at Morisset owned by the Department of Health valued at $4.4 million. In addition, Lake Macquarie City Council has invested considerable capital funds into Wangi Wangi Point caravan park, and its improvements are valued at a further $1.5 million. That brings the total to $6.8 million. I wonder whether the people of Lake Macquarie are happy with the transfer of these assets from council control.
Mr Mills: Why don't you go and ask them? You are talking through your armpit.
Mr HUMPHERSON: I am just wondering what sort of say the people of Lake Macquarie have had in this process. Lake Macquarie City Council does not have the most brilliant reputation throughout the State.
Mr Mills: Lake Macquarie City Council has an excellent reputation.
Mr HUMPHERSON: No, it has a very poor reputation and I wonder how closely council's position on this matter relates to the informed view of relevant ratepayers. It is well known that the Australian Labor Party has significant influence on that council - a fact that would cause any informed person to question its motives in some detail. The transfer of these assets from council control and management is not in the interests of the people of Lake Macquarie. They should have had an opportunity to make an informed judgment on that issue. The bill could be amended to allow adequate compensation to be paid to landowners adversely affected by the proposal. However, there are other equally important aspects that the bill completely overlooks.
The Minister for Land and Water Conservation stated on the last occasion that there are a number of significant Aboriginal land claims which have yet to be determined, and that was the reason for adjournment of the debate. Land at Wangi Wangi Point south is the subject of Aboriginal land claims Nos 3306 and 3307, and the Morisset Hospital site is the subject of claim No. 3514. Clearly the honourable member for Lake Macquarie could not care less about those Aboriginal land claims or Aborigines in that area. In fact, he should be aware that a determination has already been made on two of the Wangi Wangi South claims. The bill has not taken that into account and the honourable member for Lake Macquarie has not outlined his position with regard to those claims. Does he intend to override the approved claims? What does he intend to do with the other claims covered by the ambit of this bill?
I am interested in the Opposition's position on this legislation. About three years ago the former member for Davidson indicated his desire to incorporate Crown land in Oxford Falls into Garigal National Park. Given those circumstances, I strongly support that initiative. However, the ALP on that occasion opposed that proposal in its early stages because it did not believe any undetermined Aboriginal land claims as a result of incorporation of such land into a national park should be overridden. Many of the land claims in the Oxford Falls area have been subsequently determined. Ongoing consultation and negotiation are taking place with the Department of Conservation and Land Management, relevant Ministers, me and the honourable member for Wakehurst, who also supports the concept of reaching a solution without the necessity of introducing this bill.
Clearly the honourable member for Lake Macquarie does not have regard for consultation or consideration of Aboriginal land claims in his area. Honourable members would be aware that Lake Macquarie has significant coal reserves, and that is no doubt one of the reasons for the proposal that this area be included in a State recreation area rather than in a national park to avoid any suggestion that the resources in the area would be sterilised. That is in
keeping with the exploitation of national parks, which was endorsed by the ALP national conference recently. Mr Deputy-Speaker, I seek an extension of time.
Question - That the member's time for speaking be extended - put.
The House divided.
Mr DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! I remind honourable members of the necessity for decorum in the Chamber at all times, even when a division is called for.
Mr Armstrong Mr Merton
Mr Baird Ms Moore
Mr Beck Mr Morris
Mr Blackmore Mr W. T. J. Murray
Mr Causley Mr O'Doherty
Mr Chappell Mr D. L. Page
Mrs Chikarovski Mr Peacocke
Mr Cochran Mr Petch
Mrs Cohen Mr Phillips
Mr Collins Mr Photios
Mr Cruickshank Mr Richardson
Mr Debnam Mr Rixon
Mr Downy Mr Schipp
Mr Fraser Mr Schultz
Mr Glachan Mrs Skinner
Mr Griffiths Mr Small
Mr Hartcher Mr Smith
Mr Hatton Mr Souris
Mr Hazzard Mr Tink
Mr Humpherson Mr Windsor
Dr Kernohan Mr Zammit
Mr Longley Tellers,
Dr Macdonald Mr Jeffery
Ms Machin Mr Kerr
Ms Allan Mr McBride
Mr Amery Mr McManus
Mr Anderson Mr Markham
Mr A. S. Aquilina Mr Martin
Mr J. J. Aquilina Mr Mills
Mr Bowman Mr Moss
Mr Carr Mr J. H. Murray
Mr Clough Mr Nagle
Mr Crittenden Mr E. T. Page
Mr Doyle Mr Price
Mr Face Dr Refshauge
Mr Gaudry Mr Rogan
Mr Gibson Mr Rumble
Mrs Grusovin Mr Scully
Ms Harrison Mr Shedden
Mr Hunter Mr Sullivan
Mr Iemma Mr Thompson
Mr Irwin Mr Whelan
Mr Knight Mr Yeadon
Mr Knowles Tellers,
Mr Langton Mr Beckroge
Mrs Lo Po' Mr Davoren
Mr Fahey Mr Harrison
Mr West Ms Nori
Resolved in the affirmative.
Mr HUMPHERSON: We have just witnessed the real ALP, the cynical approach of this mob opposite trying to apply the gag, trying to deny free speech. That is the reason so many members are in the Chamber at the moment.
Mr Face: On a point of order: I cannot hear the honourable member's contribution.
Mr DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! Honourable members will leave the Chamber quietly and quickly.
Mr Scully: Come on, Point of Order.
Mr HUMPHERSON: The honourable member for Smithfield has a contribution to make. It will be interesting to see whether he speaks on the bill. If honourable members have been following debate, they will be aware that the Lake Macquarie area is significant for its coal reserves. One of the reasons for proposing that the area be a State recreation area rather than a national park is to avoid any suggestion that the resources would be sterilised. In case there is any doubt about the value of the coal reserves, the resources affected by the proposal, I inform the House that the Department of Health has been advised that approximately $800 million - almost a billion dollars - of recoverable coal deposits are located under the Morisset site alone. This resource should not be put at risk.
The savings and transitional provisions of the bill are totally defective. Honourable members will also be aware that this important region generates a substantial proportion of the State's electricity. The lands identified for inclusion in the State recreation area are subject to a substantial number of easements for power transmission lines. While the provisions of the bill do not extinguish the easements, a more thorough drafting would have removed any uncertainty about the future of these very important resources. The bill also proposes that the State recreation area will be managed by a trust. I do not oppose the formation of community-based trusts. As I said in my speech earlier, I support the concept of consultation.
The task that has been given to the proposed trust is an onerous one for the financial support of which no provision has been made. It is probably envisaged that the National Parks and Wildlife Service will fund the cost of the plan of management. Such a plan, if it is to address the management requirements of six separate sites, would cost a minimum of $40,000 and, more likely, $50,000 to $60,000. The honourable member for Lake Macquarie, in his naivety, probably thought when he proposed the bill that the National Parks and Wildlife Service would trim its budget to fund the additional $100,000 of capital funding required to establish such
a State recreation area. Perhaps the honourable member for Lake Macquarie has not considered the signposting, visitor facilities and amenities worthy of a State recreation area.
Mr Scully: Point of Order has got nothing to say.
Mr DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! I advise the honourable member for Smithfield that if he wishes to make a point of order he should stand, address the Chair on the point of order, and make sure the point of order is substantive. Otherwise the point of order will be taken as frivolous and he may be removed from the Chamber.
Mr HUMPHERSON: Perhaps the honourable member for Lake Macquarie also thinks the National Parks and Wildlife Service will find from its budget the operational funds required for the day-to-day costs of running a State recreation area. In case members of the Opposition have given no thought to this issue, I inform them that at least $0.25 million per annum would be required to allow base level operations. Two examples of this exist in the State recreation areas, to reinforce this point. [Time expired.]
Mr HARTCHER (Gosford - Minister for the Environment) [11.20]: I support previous speakers, including the Minister for Land and Water Conservation and the honourable member for Davidson. I will address this issue from the point of view of the National Parks and Wildlife Service and my own Act.
Ms Allan: Why is that? What is your attitude?
Mr HARTCHER: The honourable member for Blacktown has been in this House for six years, has been shadow minister for the environment and has asked a total of three questions on the environment in the almost three years that I have been the Minister.
Ms Allan: And I stumped you each time.
Mr HARTCHER: Yes, I tremble every time. I think, "Question time is coming, Pam might ask a question. Oh no". It is the most terrifying experience any member of this House could endure. Every time I see the honourable member for Blacktown jump, I think, "This is it; Armageddon is here". By interjecting, the honourable member for Blacktown is seeking to waste the time of the House and to distract me from the issue. This bill seeks to impose upon the National Parks and Wildlife Service and upon the Minister administering the National Parks and Wildlife Act a whole range of responsibilities and new approaches which are inconsistent with what everyone in this State believes should be done about the environment. What do I mean by this? The Government, through the National Parks and Wildlife Service, has a well-established program of nature conservation.
The function of the National Parks and Wildlife Service is to look after wildlife in this State - plants or animals. The service has a further objective to ensure proper tourist development and recreational facilities within New South Wales. This bill ignores the whole aspect of nature conservation which underpins the role of the National Parks and Wildlife Service and seeks to appropriate various lands of the Crown and hand them over to a trust which it is supposed to administer in accordance with the National Parks and Wildlife Act. The bill does not provide for the handing over of land to the National Parks and Wildlife Service, it does not go even that far. It seeks to set up a hybrid body which will combine the roles of the Crown Lands Trust and the National Parks and Wildlife Service. The relevant lands, according to the National Parks and Wildlife Service, are inappropriate for administration by it under its Act. This is an important point: these lands are at Point Wolstoncroft, Wangi Wangi Point, Wangi Wangi South and Awaba Point.
Mr Knowles: Wangi Wangi Point is a beautiful place.
Mr HARTCHER: The honourable member for Moorebank has probably never been there in his life.
Mr Knowles: On a point of order: for the record, I have been to Wangi Wangi Point many times; my parents lived there.
Mr DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! That is not a point of order, it is a point of clarification.
Mr HARTCHER: If I have offended the parents of the honourable member for Moorebank I am only too willing to apologise. The parcels of land at Point Wolstoncroft, Wangi Wangi Point, Wangi Wangi South and Awaba Point, as proposed in the bill, have been investigated by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. The service has advised that reservation under the National Parks and Wildlife Act is not warranted. The body entrusted with responsibility for nature conservation in this State -
Mr Hunter: You told them to give you that report.
Mr HARTCHER: The honourable member would have asked for it under Standing Order 54 in any event. The National Parks and Wildlife Service is the body responsible for the administration of the National Parks and Wildlife Act. It is the body responsible for assessing land for its appropriateness, and significantly it is the body that will administer the land should the bill pass through the Parliament. However, it is the very body that has reported back and said that the reservation of this land is not warranted. The report further states that its management as regional open space would be more appropriate. One either believes in the values of nature conservation or one does not. One either has a national park and wildlife system or one does not.
Mr Mills: You either tell the truth, or you do not.
Mr HARTCHER: Coming from the honourable member for Wallsend that is an extraordinary statement. The honourable member admits by interjection that he does not tell the truth. I am advised by the National Parks and Wildlife Service that the Morisset Hospital site would require more
detailed assessment before its natural heritage values and future management could be appropriately determined. In other words, the areas involved have been looked at and found to be inappropriate under the National Parks and Wildlife Act. In one particular case a further assessment is required. In accordance with the way the Government administers the lands of the Crown in this State separate systems have been set up to manage lands according to their nature conservation or according to their future usage by society. This bill is against rational land management practices in this State. So what is the imperative? The imperative that underlies the bill is the need by the honourable member for Lake Macquarie to be seen to be doing something in his electorate.
Ms Allan: It would be good if you could do something for the environment occasionally.
Mr DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Blacktown to order.
Mr HARTCHER: The honourable member for Blacktown has asked three questions on the environment in three years in this House.
Ms Allan: Didn't the earth move for you each time?
Mr HARTCHER: After what the honourable member for Blacktown put to me in the estimates committee I feel we should avoid that subject. This bill cuts across any rational system of land use planning in this State. It seeks to set up a trust system which does not represent the wider community. The trust will be the administrative body and, presumably, it will be responsible to the Minister who administers the National Parks and Wildlife Act. But that is not clear from the bill. Who will be the relevant Minister? The honourable member has not said. Further, the National Parks and Wildlife Service will be required to be the responsible body. This will result in further cost for the service, in terms of funding, staffing and the preparation of a plan of management. That responsibility will be imposed upon the service but it will receive no budgetary allocation to match the added responsibility. I remind the Opposition that this is an area which the service says is not appropriate to be handed over for administration under the National Parks and Wildlife Act.
Ms Allan: You are giving yourself away to Minister Souris. You should be ashamed of yourself.
Mr DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Blacktown to order for the second time.
Mr HARTCHER: Why should I be ashamed of myself? The honourable member should enlarge upon that. If it were not for all these interjections I could well and truly have completed my speech. I have faced a continuous barrage of interjections from the honourable member for Lake Macquarie, the honourable member for Moorebank, the honourable member for Blacktown and the honourable member for Wallsend. Only my old sparring partner, the honourable member for Auburn, has remained silent because he is doing a bit of legal research. The bill proposes that the six areas of land identified -
Mr DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! It being 11.30 a.m., debate is interrupted.