Mrs BEAMER: My question is directed to the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, and Minister for Housing. What measures is the Government taking to protect the New South Wales coast?
Mr KNOWLES: I thought all members opposite may have observed a minute’s silence today in respect of the fact that they have just brought down the Leader of the Opposition, rolling him in
the party room and forcing him to backflip on a pledge he made publicly. I would have thought members opposite on this day would have shown more respect for the dead.
Mr Cochran: On a point of order. I do not need to remind the Minister and Government members that today is Remembrance Day, which has not been observed by this Parliament. The references that have been made by the Minister are untoward and offensive. I believe that the honourable member for Bulli would also find them offensive, as would other members who served in the forces -
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is no point of order. Other forms of the House are available to the member should he wish to make a statement on the matter.
Mr KNOWLES: Two years ago the Government committed itself to commence the task of protecting our precious coastline. Since then it has systematically applied rigorous environmental controls to conserve and improve the coast, as well as to provide opportunities for appropriate and balanced economic development. The Government’s actions to date form an impressive list of conservation and protection measures, and I welcome the opportunity from the honourable member to remind the House of just a few of the more important ones. In the last two years this Government has added 770 hectares of wetlands under State environmental planning policy 14 on the north coast and the south coast. I have used my call-in powers under planning legislation to take control of a large number of sensitive developments, including Sea Ranch, Iron Gates and Culburra. There have been no approvals of canal estates. In fact, I have refused canal estate proposals at Dunbogan and Eastlakes - proposals the previous Government was getting ready to approve.
There have been six major coastal-related commissions of inquiry on specific projects, including the commission of inquiry currently under way for North Ocean Shores. There have been an extensive number of strategic planning outcomes, including the important issue of the gazettal of the Jervis Bay regional environmental plan. I have refused developments which the previous Government supported and was set to approve at Broken Head, Merimbula and Tathra, to name but a few. My colleagues the Minister for the Environment and the Minister for Fisheries have added two spectacular marine national parks to this State - Jervis Bay and Solitary Islands - whilst my colleague the Minister for Land and Water Conservation has added to the majesty of the coastline by creating the Cape Byron State Recreation Area.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the Deputy Leader of the National Party to order.
Mr KNOWLES: But perhaps of greatest importance is the acquisition of land under the coastal lands protection scheme, bringing once private holdings back into the public domain. Those acquisitions include land at North Ocean Shores, Nullica Beach, Forresters Beach, Mitchells Island and the jewel in the coastal crown, the national estate listed property at Cullendulla Creek on the northern shores of Batemans Bay. Undeniably these are great wins for the New South Wales coastline. Collectively they represent thousands of hectares of newly protected land, much of which has been brought back into the public domain as a consequence of this Government’s intervention.
The actions and commitment to our coast do not stop there. Earlier today I announced four new initiatives that will fundamentally enhance the management of the New South Wales coastline. These are the best protection measures our coast has ever had, and include: a new coastal policy; a new State environmental planning policy which will formally ban canal estate developments; new additions to lands protected under State environmental planning policy 26 dealing with littoral rainforests; and substantial new additions to the SEPP 14 coastal wetlands policy.
The coastal policy is a result of extensive consultation and collaboration and forms the backdrop to a new management regime for coastal land. In brief summary the new coastal policy will increase the land area protected along our coast from approximately 1,500 to 5,000 square kilometres - more than a threefold increase. It will include, for the first time, coastal estuaries, lagoons, islands, lakes and rivers, and will further extend the coastal zone to three nautical miles seaward.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Wakehurst to order.
Mr KNOWLES: The policy will also lock local government authorities into an agreed set of objectives for our coast based on ecologically sustainable development principles and properly integrated planning controls. The Government will legislate to re-establish the New South Wales Coastal Council with increased membership and increased powers to oversee the implementation of the policy. The Government’s addition of 60 hectares
of scarce and precious littoral rainforest to SEPP 26 is the first such addition to that planning policy since its introduction by the then Minister for Planning, Bob Carr, in 1988. These valuable coastal forests are now protected forever. The Government’s additions to SEPP 14 coastal wetlands are equally important. My announcement today means that more than 400 hectares will be added to and included in the State’s coastal wetlands system, adding to the 770 hectares of wetlands listed under SEPP 14 during the last two years.
The New South Wales coastline is undeniably a precious resource enjoyed by millions of people for its scenic and natural beauty. It provides an ecosystem and habitat for literally thousands of species of flora and fauna over more than 720 beaches and 130 estuarine environments. Eighty per cent of the State’s population lives on our coastal fringe. Forty per cent of all new homes are constructed in the coastal region. Our coast receives more than 52 million tourist night visitations each year. That means that, in addition to the natural and scenic wonder of our coastline, the New South Wales coast is a major contributor to our State’s economy, underpinning hundreds of millions of dollars of investment and thousands of jobs. The Government’s policies and its actions over the past two years - and into the future as a result of my announcements today - underscore this Government’s commitment to strike the balance and preserve this precious resource for future generations.