Debate resumed from 17 November.
Mr D. L. PAGE (Ballina) [10.14 p.m.]: I lead for the Opposition on the National Park Estate (Southern Region Reservations) Bill. It is important to put this legislation into context. Honourable members will be aware that in 1992 the Commonwealth and State governments signed the National Forest Policy Statement, which undertook, on the one hand, to create a comprehensive and adequate reserve system, which was to satisfy environmental outcomes, and, on the other hand, to create regional forest agreements of 20 years duration. Essentially, the Coalition's forest policy supports the National Forest Policy Statement concluded by the Federal and State governments in 1992. However, we differ from the NSW Government's forestry policy generally in that the Government has decided to exceed the terms of the National Forest Policy Statement either by way of declaring larger than required national parks or not following due processes—in other words, the State Government has gone ahead without the support and agreement of the Commonwealth.
Honourable members will be aware that prior to the 1999 election the Carr Government introduced legislation of a similar kind for the south-east, the Eden area, and the north-east. At that time the Coalition objected to the legislation on the basis that at that stage the Government had not signed off on an agreement with the Federal Government. However, in relation to this regional forest agreement I understand that, whilst no agreement has been signed off, there is in-principle agreement between the State and Federal governments. This, therefore, will represent the first regional forest agreement to be put in place by the Carr Government, which, at the time at which the legislation is being brought in, at least has some sort of in-principle support from the Federal Government.
The object of the bill is to make provision with respect to additions to the national park estate in the southern region of the State. The legislation creates additions to the national park estate of 385,000 hectares in the southern region. That will have the effect of creating a continuous corridor of some 350 kilometres from Nowra to the Victorian border. In addition, but not mentioned in the bill—and this is a point that must be taken on board by the Parliamentary Secretary—are certain commitments given to industry in relation to the availability of timber. Those commitments are contained in the Minister's second reading speech.
I do not have any reason to believe that those commitments will not be honoured. However, I make the point that the legislation as it stands creates the new national parks but, in terms of industry outcomes, those commitments are restricted to the commitments referred to in the second reading speech. It has been suggested to me that it would be possible for the Government to allow this legislation to be passed but not honour the other side of the agreement. It is unlikely that the Government would do that, but I would be much more assured if the Parliamentary Secretary, or the Minister, were able in reply to reinforce the comments made in the Minister's second reading speech. It is very important for the timber industry that it have those commitments.
The second reading speech referred to delivering 42,000 cubic metres per annum of even-flow high-quality logs to the South Coast subregion. It referred also to the delivery of 48,000 cubic metres per annum of even-flow high-quality logs in the Tumut subregion. The Minister further stated that when the Commonwealth signs the agreement, New South Wales has agreed to spend $6.5 million to increase the annual harvest in the South Coast subregion to 46,000 cubic metres per annum and to share with the Commonwealth the cost of the increase from 46,000 cubic metres to a total of some 48,500 cubic metres. This legislation refers on the one hand to an additional commitment of 42,000 cubic metres to industry followed by increases of up to 48,500 cubic metres for the South Coast subregion and a firm commitment of 48,000 cubic metres per annum of even-flow high-quality logs in the Tumut subregion.
The first among a number of the Coalition's concerns is that the Coalition requires a reassurance that the commitment made by the Minister on that matter in his second reading speech will be honoured. The Coalition also believes that it would have been better if this legislation had been brought before the Parliament with an agreement actually signed by the Commonwealth Government. That would have been a much better context in which to have discussed this bill, because the reality is that under the current arrangements the Coalition has to take this Government on trust. We know as a matter of experience that that is not something that we can do with confidence. The opportunity exists for the New South Wales Government to provide for conservation outcomes and not to act on the industry component of the decision.
It is also very important to acknowledge that this legislation, unlike the legislation that was passed by this Parliament in the latter part of 1998, does not contain provisions dealing with 20-year forest agreements and provisions dealing with integrated forestry operational approvals. I understand that the reason is that the legislation previously passed, which developed 20-year forestry agreements and integrated forestry operation approvals, will apply equally to this legislation. As I understand it, there is a connection between this legislation and the 1998 legislation.
I ask the Minister in his reply to reaffirm the position that 20-year forest agreements and integrated forestry operation approvals will be put in place for the subregions. At the moment the Coalition has only the word of this Government that this will occur. I have had discussions with the Forest Products Association [FPA] which at this stage has had no contact with the Government in relation to the development of 20-year forestry agreements and integrated forest operational approvals. The Coalition needs to make sure that the Government will honour that part of its undertaking. I wish to cite briefly a letter that I received from the New South Wales Forest Products Association. The letter states:
The support of the FPA and 100% of the industry is absolutely conditional upon the Government's promises, which are reflected at page 3 of the second reading speech by the Minister ...
The letter goes on to outline the commitments. Another concern that has been expressed by the FPA is that there have been long-promised but not implemented five-year filter strip studies in each of the forest agreement regions. A letter dated 20 November from Mr Col Dorber, the Executive Director of the FPA, addressed to me as shadow Minister states:
We understand that the EPA in particular has been most obstructive about the honouring of this aspect of the Government's commitment. We have been entirely unsuccessful in having this matter finalised.
In that context, the executive director is referring to the Government's long-promised but not implemented five-year filter strip studies in each of the forest agreement regions. I again request that the Minister in his reply address the issue. I have held discussions with officers of the Department of Planning, who undertook to pursue the issue with the EPA. The FPA has also sought a guarantee from the Government that no plantations will be included in the new national parks.
The FPA is rightly suspicious of the Government on that issue because it was discovered after agreements were put in place in 1998 that two significant plantations were included in the reserve system. When one thinks about it, it is really quite inappropriate for plantations which were planted specifically for the purpose of harvesting to be included in the reserve system, when the understanding of the industry was that the plantation would be made available for timber production. I understand that there are ongoing problems associated with timber amounting to approximately 4,000 cubic metres, all of which is likely to be lost as a result of inclusion of plantations in the north-east region.
I also wish to address some other concerns which revolve around the generally inadequate consideration of land-holder interests in the determination and negotiation of regional forest agreements. I think it is fair to say on the one hand that the Resource and Conservation Assessment Council [RACAC] process has provided the timber industry with a reasonable vehicle for putting its position and has provided a good vehicle for the conservation movement to make its bid for conversions of State forest to national park. But on the other hand the people who have been left out in the cold in that process are those who own neighbouring land, people who have Crown leases in State forests and people who hold occupational permits in State forests, which for the most part are grazing lease, and who will lose those grazing leases as a result of State forests being converted to national parks.
The north-east forest agreement provides us with a real lesson because I understand that 120 occupational permit holders were directly affected by that agreement. The effect of the agreement was that they lost their grazing entitlements as occupational permit holders, and a total of approximately 260,000 hectares of grazing land was lost in the upper and lower north-east regional forest agreement [RFA] alone. I am advised that in relation to the southern region, which is an area that is subject to the legislation presently before the House, not as many occupational permit holders are involved but that at least 30 will be adversely affected by the loss of grazing permits.
The Government has shown precious little compassion for their circumstances. The only thing that this Government has been prepared to do is give them 18 months to get off their land. In many cases the permit holders require the grazing leases in order to be able to make their properties viable. In many cases they have a large lease over State forests and a relatively small amount of freehold land. If they lose the grazing leases to State forests by conversion of the land to national park, their whole enterprise becomes non-viable because there is nowhere else for them to graze cattle.
Ms Hodgkinson: And feral animals take over.
Mr D. L. PAGE: The honourable member for Burrinjuck rightly makes a point about feral animals which I will address shortly. At the moment I am addressing the loss of grazing capability, which is a huge issue on the North Coast and will be another big issue for the southern region as well. It is also interesting to make the point that the Government has stated that grazing is an inappropriate land use for State forests and national parks.
Mr Webb: It is incompatible with their objectives.
Mr D. L. PAGE: As the honourable member for Monaro states, grazing is incompatible with the Government's objectives. Yet I have received correspondence from the Minister for Forestry defending the presence of cattle in native vegetation plantations by saying that the cattle are actually very useful in keeping fuel low by grazing and eliminating the build-up of fuel, which in turn reduces the risk of fire. Grazing also provides assistance with the provision of fertiliser.
Mr Markham: How?
Mr D. L. PAGE: If the honourable member does not know how, I suggest he should go back to primary school or, better still, come out to my farm and I will show him. If he talks to someone from the National Party they will educate him on some of these basic things. The point I am seeking to make is that the Minister has an inconsistent approach. He says it is all right to have cattle amongst trees that are planted in a straight line, as in plantations, but it is not good to have cattle amongst trees that are not planted in a straight line. We all know that once native forests are planted out seedlings occur, and if natural regeneration is allowed in the plantation, the regrowth will not be in straight lines. So this Government policy is quite inconsistent in its approach. The Government should review its approach to cattle grazing. I emphasise that here we are talking about only very light grazing, and then at only certain times of the year. We are not talking about putting cattle into forests and flogging the country.
The point must be made that many of the areas that have been grazed for 100 years at certain times of the year produce an outcome that makes the Government feel comfortable about taking those areas into the reserve system. It now regards those areas as having high conservation value and being good enough to go into the reserve system. If they are good enough to go into the reserve system, how much damage has cattle grazing done to those areas over those years? I urge the Government to rethink this issue. It has a mindset and narrow view that all grazing in national parks is automatically wrong. In fact, in certain circumstances, grazing could be quite acceptable or in fact quite desirable, as the Minister for Forestry indicated in relation to plantations. It is very desirable because that reduces the fuel load. This issue has to be thought through more thoroughly than it has been in the past.
The next issue is access to land, where resumption results in freehold land being locked in by new national parks. I have raised this problem with the Government in private briefings. It has indicated that access will not be closed if it is the only access left available. That might sound fine, and it might sound like reasonable insurance, but the reality is that the access left available to some people might require a 200-kilometres journey to exercise. Where a property is split by a national park, all that the property owner need do is take the cattle through say 200 metres of national park, but the Government would close that access because another road connects the two parts of the person's property. However, the owner might have to go via Cooma to get there. In other words, it could involve a 100-kilometre trip.
Quite clearly, that is nonsense. Much more flexibility has to be included in the system so that those who need access to maintain their operations on freehold land—and this is access to freehold land that is being denied by the actions of government—will have a better arrangement to give them practical access to enable them to carry out operations on their own land. I seek a commitment from the Government, through the Minister in his reply to this debate, that it will provide the access that these families need to keep their operations viable. Another issue relates to the increase in the number of new national parks. Prior to this bill we have had at least 166 new national parks in New South Wales—a very substantial increase. This legislation will add a lot more to that number. I am not sure exactly how many; it is difficult to work out exactly how many new national parks are in this lot. But it covers 385,000 hectares, which is quite a number of national parks. The point is that the more national parks we have—
Mr Webb: The more weeds we will have.
Mr D. L. PAGE: Possibly more weeds, but the greater the number of neighbours, too. The more the boundaries of the national parks system are extended, the greater the number of people who will be adversely affected by poor management within national parks. We have weeds, feral animals fire control and fencing issues to deal with. It seems to me that the extension of national parks accentuates all those issues. They are bad enough as they are, but are exacerbated by continuing to grow the park system and affecting more and more people. I want to refer to a case study of a family affected by this decision.
The case study is that of the Boate family of "Eastwood", near Jerangle. Brothers Robert and William Boate farm "Eastwood", which supports them and William's wife and sons. The property is 5,800 acres, of which 4,000 acres is being lost to national park as part of the southern regional forest agreement. The family have been on the property for more than 80 years and are the third generation to farm the land. They have never been given the option of converting the leased land to freehold. They graze 100 head of poll Hereford cattle, the majority of which are breeding stock. If they lose two-thirds of their property, their stocking will be reduced by half, rendering the remainder of the property unviable.
Mr Webb: And they will be out of business.
Mr D. L. PAGE: Exactly. Two households now rely on the property. Helen and William Boate have two sons at boarding school. This is an isolated family, so the children have to go to boarding school. If the Boates lose this lease—they are occupational permit holders—the children will have to be pulled out of school. The family are a key part of the local community, comprising two of the 12-person bush fire brigade. They also keep an engine on their property, to make sure that they can access fires in their vicinity very quickly. They are members of numerous local clubs and societies, as well as helping elderly neighbours.
The Boates have been managing the lease land responsibly, controlling feral animals, particularly wild pigs. They have caught 68 wild pigs in the past six months alone. Of course, wild pigs have great potential to damage the land. They will certainly damage land much more than will cattle. The Boates have also been controlling outbreaks of serrated tussock, which they fear will get out of control under National Parks management. The resumption of the land will lead to the Boates' remaining freehold being entirely surrounded by National Parks and State Forests land. Although the Boates have received assurances of continued access, they have been given nothing in writing, and no legal easement has been offered. And, as I have indicated, they have been given 18 months to get their cattle off this land. These are small-time battles that we are talking about. We are not talking about wealthy graziers. We are talking about people with 100 head of poll Hereford cattle. That is a very small operation. As I have said, they put the cattle on this land at certain key times, when there is not a lot of feed elsewhere. But, without access to that feed at the critical time, they cannot maintain their cattle operation.
There are many other examples that I could give. Earlier, I was tempted to read into Hansard in its entirety the letter that the Boates sent me. In the end, I summarised it, but the letter is quite heartwrenching. These people are looking down the barrel of losing the whole of their livelihood because of this legislation. I implore the Government to think this matter through more thoroughly and be more compassionate about the impacts that these sorts of decisions are having on neighbouring land-holders. We saw what happened in respect of the north-eastern forest agreement and the pain that that has caused. We do not want a repetition of that in the southern region. I should point out that the creation of forest management zones will place onerous restrictions on the use of land. Having to fence large areas of land to prevent stock from grazing in forest management zones makes grazing non-viable.
I am saying that, in addition to the areas that have been set aside under the reserve system, the Government creates these forest management zones. The problem is that the zones are created in a chessboard-like arrangement, with little bits of land here and there. At the moment, people who have grazing leases all over this country must make sure that their cattle do not enter the forest management zone. The law prohibits them grazing forest management zones, because those areas are deemed to be of high conservation value. The only way they can maintain their leases and not graze in the zones is to fence off areas that are not forest management zones. We are talking here about tens of kilometres of fencing. I repeat: many of these people are small-time graziers who do not have the money to even contemplate incurring that sort of cost for fencing.
As I said earlier, though the Opposition has a number of concerns about this legislation it will not vote against the bill. However, I would like the Government to honour those commitments to which I referred earlier relating to the industry, for example, the amount of timber that will be available to industry—a critical issue. I also want the Government to address, in some meaningful way, the issues I raised relating to grazing leases. It must reconsider that whole issue and ensure that access to properties is properly maintained. The Government must look more intelligently and more creatively at the establishment of forest management zones and at what occurs in those zones so that a lot of fencing is not required.
The Government must ensure that, given that this is a new area, the National Parks and Wildlife Service manages it better than it has managed similar areas in the past. I have often said to people that the name on the gate of a farm does not matter as much as how well the property is managed. Unfortunately, in New South Wales new areas of State forest are converted to national parks without any change in management. The management of those areas is getting worse as the National Parks and Wildlife Service does not have the equipment or the resources to maintain them in the way in which they should be maintained. There is much to be learned by the National Parks and Wildlife Service in managing its new reserve system.
Mr W. D. SMITH (South Coast) [10.41 p.m.]: The southern New South Wales Regional Forest Agreement comes after five years of meticulous research and consultation between all stakeholders, including timber workers, forestry and national parks staff, conservationists, environmentalists, concerned individuals and community groups. Before I discuss the value of this agreement to the South Coast I inform the House of the fleeting visit to Nowra by Federal forestry Minister, Wilson Tuckey, in October this year. It is fair to say that the Minister is renowned for his startling commentary. His visit to my region was no exception, with such gems as, "We do not have enough capacity in Australia to produce enough timber for pulp mills", and "We are reducing resource opportunities by locking up forests in national parks." One might consider that they are just idiosyncratic comments designed to shock. However, the next startler takes the cake. The Federal Minister said:
We're growing a great resource, we should chip it and send it to other countries.
I felt as though I had stepped back a few generations, maybe even a few hundred generations. Those sorts of comments are quite prehistoric. This legislation is about a fair balance between our environmental responsibilities and the long-term security of the timber industry. I wonder whether the Federal Minister was suggesting that cutting down trees for woodchips and pulp is more valuable to our future than attempting to preserve the natural resources and to ensure a balance between the environment and the economy.
The honourable member will have an opportunity later to contribute in debate on this legislation. The message that has been available for decades and at every turn is: If we do not take care of the national environment future generations will not benefit from its biodiversity. The entire southern forests agreement process has been an outstanding exercise in co-operation between Government, industry, business, the community and individual stakeholders. Admittedly there has been some resistance on both sides from hard-line environmentalists and timber proponents. However, I am pleased to say that, on the whole, this agreement was reached with relatively minimal drama. It was a privilege for me to be part of that process.
Once again the diversity of the South Coast region is a major factor in the success of the agreement, with the Government delivering for the benefit of our communities and the environment. It is a credit to all stakeholders that they have been patient and that they have taken the time to submit their views and concerns about the process. It is a credit to this Government that it has worked with considerable finesse to achieve the current form of the agreement. On the South Coast is a handful of small timber mills—some of them family concerns—that have been worried about their future in the industry. I welcome the Government's move to ensure the security of and certainty for our timber communities with 20-year wood supply agreements.
I thank the Deputy Premier for his consideration of the region's economy and environment. This Government has created a reserve system that is comprehensive, adequate and representative, and will protect and conserve the biodiversity of the State's forests through scientific and systematic rather than piecemeal reservation. At the same time we have the benefit of a viable and ecologically sustainable forest industry. I remind Opposition members that their alarmist approaches to the southern forest agreement have amounted to little and there have been no raids on unsuspecting individual land-holders.
The key to the success of this agreement process has been negotiation and open discussion. I am pleased that the Government is considering even more support for the timber industry with an undertaking to spend up to $6.5 million to increase the yearly harvest in the South Coast subregion to 46,000 cubic metres per annum, and to share the cost with the Federal Government of an increase from 46,000 to 48,500 cubic metres. The realisation that 350 kilometres, between the Victorian border and Macquarie Pass, will be a continuous stretch of national parks and reserves must surely be a phenomenal achievement for this State. The additions bring the total area of reserves in the southern region, including Kosciuszko National Park, to more than 1.3 million hectares.
I welcome the additional 60,000 hectares to be protected in informal reserves and, by prescription, in State forests, with key areas of conservation concern in escarpment forests, including the new Mongarlowe National Park and extensions to Deua National Park. Coastal forests are reserved through a major extension to Murramurrang National Park with the creation of Meroo National Park, which protects much of the catchments of five coastal lakes, and through the extension of Conjola National Park to link with Morton National Park. The protection of lake areas and old-growth forests can only benefit our communities and future generations, with expansions in the tourism industry through legitimate access, revitalisation of habitats for native species, and a healthy contribution to the atmosphere and environments.
At the same time, we will see ongoing support for timber workers and industry through the provision of the forestry industry structural adjustment package which offers support, training and incentives to forest industry businesses and workers. Many South Coast community members have been clear in their support for national parks. I am pleased that their fears about uncontrolled development have been allayed. Many people move to the South Coast for the pristine natural environment. It is reassuring to know that a trip to the bush is only a few minutes away. I noticed in recent years that native wildlife appears to be less fearful of the presence of humans.
In many South Coast villages it is not uncommon to see kangaroos lazing away in areas close to parks and wombats wandering beside roads and bush properties. Blue-tongue lizards and snakes are often seen taking a chance on a hot road and the variety of birds across the entire region is quite astonishing. Even in my village at Hyams Beach a pair of sea eagles are permanent residents in Jervis Bay National Park, and families of black cockatoos make their way across the Shoalhaven during spring and very often after summer rains. Gang-gang cockatoos drop by for short visits to gardens in Nowra on their way to the bush and flocks of coloured parrots can be seen in all the bush areas of the South Coast.
Those are just a few examples of our native wildlife on the South Coast—a haven for nature, a blessing for residents and visitors, and only minutes away from our doors. I thank the Government for giving us all an opportunity to appreciate the value of the natural environment. By dedicating these areas as national parks visitors from the city can escape to such wonderment. That is a significant aspect about this legislation. Ecologically sustainable development is the industry of the future. However, it can succeed only with a measured and lateral approach as well as an understanding that all living processes are, in fact, linked. I thank the Minister for referring to the concerns raised by my local council, Shoalhaven City Council, during the consultation process. In fact, council raised many issues. The outcomes have resulted in two shooting ranges, formerly on State forests, to be transferred under the provisions of the Forestry Act and the Crown Lands Act to become Crown land. As well, State forest land will become Crown land so that a go-cart track can be developed in the Ulladulla area.
I welcome the move to provide for the acquisition of up to six hectares in Conjola National Park and up to six hectares in the new Kangaroo Valley Nature Reserve to allow for construction of a long-awaited sewerage plant. Also, the formalisation by the National Parks and Wildlife Service of easements, access and maintenance rights and obligations in respect of sewer and water pipelines in local government areas is a significant move. I am very pleased that the Minister for the Environment proposes to issue easements under the National Parks and Wildlife Act for the southern the Shoalhaven water augmentation pipeline.
Another welcome point of interest is the intention of the National Parks and Wildlife Service to consult with private land-holders potentially affected by changes of tenure on public land adjoining their properties on issues including access. It is easy to understand the problems that may arise with land-holders beside national park zones, including the management of fire hazards and water access, to say nothing of property access. It would seem that all factors have been well addressed in this bill concerning the Southern Forest Agreement. It is right for me to support the bill, not only because I am a member of the Government, but because I understand how important it is to every member of every community across the State. In conclusion I would like to say that the bill gives long-term security for the timber industry as well as increasing our national reserves. It is the result of enormous consultation, with almost 7,500 submissions received and the collection of masses of scientific data to form the framework for decision-making. I commend the Minister for the Environment, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and the Minister for Forestry for their excellent work, and commend the bill to the House.
Mr WEBB (Monaro) [10.51 p.m.]: As the shadow Minister, the honourable member for Ballina, said earlier, the provision of the Regional Forest Agreement [RFA] and the ensuring of forest reserves and timber resources for the forest industry for the next 20 years are part of the National Park Estate (Southern Region Reservations) Bill, which I support. The Forestry and National Park Estate Act of 1998 facilitated the RFA process, and provisions in this bill improve that. It provides for secure timber reserves for the next 20 years, with 42,000 cubic metres progressing to 48,000 cubic metres in the south-east region. These resources are utilised by large and small timber mills throughout the region, from Harris-Daishowa, south of Eden, the new hardwood mill, Blue Ridge at Eden, north to the Gumm Brothers mill at Harolds Cross, and many others on the coast.
However, the bill has caused much confusion and even today I have received telephone calls from constituents concerned about the process and the lack of consultation with respect to the national park estate aspects of the bill. The Government has been very clever to combine the RFA process with the provisions of the national park estate. The making of national parks and reserves has divided the community once again and having these two provisions combined makes it very difficult for members to represent truly their constituencies. Some 325,000 hectares of the region's forest will become national parks or reserves, and an additional 60,000 hectares is to be informally reserved. Much of this had previously been provisionally identified as wilderness, with all the land management and exclusion problems that entailed.
Schedules 1 to 6 to the bill detail where some 314 parcels of land are to be transferred to the national park estate. The problem is the maps that are detailed on page after page of the bill are not available. People have received their resumption notices and have been informed that the permissive occupancies that have been in their families for generations—in some cases more than 100 years—are to be resumed by the Government in the form of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, yet maps are not available for them to peruse to see whether their land is encumbered or not. Schedule 1 to the bill sets out areas of State forest reserved as national park, including 32,146 hectares to be added to Deua National Park. Schedule 2 sets out the Crown lands reserved as national park, including 2,486 hectares in 28 parcels to be added to the Deua National Park.
The bill will permit 8,988 hectares of State forests and more than 16,000 hectares of Crown lands to be added to Kosciusko National Park. It will also permit 15,663 hectares of State Forest and 1,064 hectares of Crown lands to be added to Tallaganda National Park and an additional 5,277 hectares to Tallaganda Reserve. Significant additions will also be made to Bimberi, Brindabella and Morton national parks and to Tindery and Yaouk nature reserves, all within or next to the electorate of Monaro. Provisions exist in the bill for forest industry structural adjustment funding, but again these apply to hardwood only. Job losses that have occurred in the south-east—in Bombala, Nimmitabel and other places—will continue to occur along the coast and in Cooma and Braidwood because of the inadequate provisions in this bill.
Many holdings will be affected by the resumption of permissive occupancies or occupational permits, and honourable members who have already spoken have dealt with that. As well, there are problems with the inclusion of freehold land. Provisions in schedule 7 to the bill prohibit that. Roger Thwaites at Araluen has a number of hectares of freehold land that have been caught up within the provisions of the bill. It is important that the Government looks at that. There are several landlocked portions—both ways: freehold land within Government-owned National Parks and Wildlife Service land or permissive occupancies within freehold land. These portions will become a big problem to manage and to fence, and for the control of weeds and grazing, as the Act specifically prohibits grazing.
A case in point is the Harrisons at Araluen, who will lose 1,200 acres of land. They also have land that will become landlocked, and there are big problems with sheep grazing in that area, with management of that land and with fencing. The shadow Minister mentioned the problem with viable farms. In my electorate, the story of the Boate family of Jerangle is heartwrenching. The family has controlled the pigs that do immeasurable damage. The family has been very productive over the years with cattle grazing and has left the land in the pristine condition—land that the Government deems is suitable to be resumed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. In the future the land will be mismanaged because the service is unable to manage it, and we have all seen evidence of that. Caroline and Peter Ewart of Jerangle are neighbours of the Boate family and will be caught up in the same circumstances.
Another case is Bruce Laurie of Wallaces Gap at Ballalaba. He has 1,800 acres that will be resumed over the next 18 months. It will be a major loss to him from a grazing point of view. He has a meeting on 15 December with four government officials to try to sort out the mess that he will be in. There are a lot of problems with the definition of "use", native vegetation, threatened species and a lot of other things that impose conditions on farming enterprises. They all need to be sorted out. Many areas within the legislation have not been taken into account. One is the fencing of lands from which stock are to be precluded.
The shadow Minister spoke about the increasing influence of neighbours. With neighbours more boundary fencing has to be taken into account, and directed, managed and surveyed to keep stock out. There are also many inadequacies in the surveying of the land. People have been told their blocks have been resumed—freehold blocks in some cases. The Franklin family of Brindabella in the electorate of Burrinjuck has a great history of management of the land. The Franklins were told at a meeting in Braidwood that their land would not be resumed, yet that family has received notice that it is to be resumed, and I have written to the Minister to get some clarification.
John and Anne Rolfe from Nerriga have had an ongoing problem with their stock from dingoes and dogs. Resuming this land will severely jeopardise their grazing concern. The sustainability of small rural communities is at risk because the income produced by these properties has contributed greatly to the fabric of New South Wales and to those small towns. The loss of those grazing concerns through the sale of stock and turnover through stock and station agents and in the small towns will contribute to the decline of rural communities. When people are forced to move on, the remainder of the community will have to cope with the burden of dealing with of weeds, feral animals and bushfire threats. State Forests and those responsible for parks and reserves do not pay rates to local government and so that burden will be forced on to those who remain and already pay rates.
Problems will arise regarding compensation for improvements on the land to be resumed, such as fences, dams, stock yards and so on. I am sure the amounts being discussed will not adequately compensate farmers for the losses they will sustain over those improvements to their grazing concerns. Honourable members have spoken about access and clause (8) of schedule 7 details the provisions relating to access roads. Clauses (5) and (6) provide time limits in which that aspect is to be resolved. Property owners affected are John Ingham, who has property south of Braidwood; the Hardwick and Kalivoda couple from Bungarby; and the Greens from Nimmitabel, who have spoken of Aboriginal tracks on their property. If this bill resumes that land into government ownership, the history of those Aboriginal tracks that date back almost 200 years will be lost to society. The very values maintained for generations by the Green family will be lost because no longer will they have a connection with the land.
I have spoken about the farm viability of many constituents. Dorothy Griggs has 1,300 acres at Back Creek, Araluen, and Kevin Griggs has 1,000 acres at Yang Valley, Araluen, each have occupational permits but their properties and agricultural concerns will be placed in jeopardy. The ancestors of Rupert Culverwell on the Kings Highway, Burbong, established land in 1817 just east of Queanbeyan, well before many farm occupations across Australia were established. His family has held an occupational permit for one small portion of this property for all that time. He has managed that land using it sparingly for grazing. It has no weeds, is safe from bushfires and has almost 185 years of connection with one family. This land will be taken over by the National Parks and Wildlife Service and, as we all fear, it will be mismanaged and end up being full of weeds and under threat of bushfires. Because it will become public land, people will access it believing it is theirs to use.
Hu Gault, who has property south of Queanbeyan, came to see me. He is an older farmer whose family has had many generations of connection with the land. He has said he has given farming away. He had 4,000 acres under occupational permit but because the parks department will resume the land, he will walk away from farming and leave behind his family's history with that land. Resumption of that land presents ongoing access problems. I have already spoken of our concerns with the management, costs and maintenance of all of this land to be resumed. The best people to manage it are those who have held for some time tenure of the land through occupational permits and other title. Resumption of this land will result in lost potential for tourism, recreation, education, conservation, biodiversity, historical and heritage factors as happened in Happy Jack's Road, Eucumbene and in the many other cases in Kosciuszko National Park.
The values of that land that this Government thinks it is protecting by attaching this legislation to the Regional Forest Agreement will be lost. The resulting burden will be placed on local communities through the forced management of land and the threat of bushfires. No social and economic studies have been undertaken on the impact through loss of primary production, increased public land management costs, the costs and burdens placed on neighbours and others who cherish the land, not to mention tourism and educational losses. This Government is not even aware of the cost of that lost potential. I echo the words of the shadow Minister about the loss of grazing value. Minister Yeadon said that grazing is a valuable tool in the whole of forestry areas. The Federal Minister for Forestry and Conservation, Wilson Tuckey, has also said that there is certainly a value in selective logging in parks and reserves. This is the correct management of that land and through it we have seen evidence of forests regenerating. It is not clogged up because there is water penetration and flow-on. Roger Hosking of Braidwood has much knowledge about this type of management and has informed me of some concerns with water or hydrology and bushfire threats and weeds such as serrated tussock.
We need to consider other things such as enshrining in legislation legal and physical access. We need to examine the possibility of allowing greater use of the land with more cost-effective voluntary conservation agreements to achieve the objectives rather than just have a land grab. Negotiations must be undertaken with disadvantaged leaseholders with the objective of identifying alternative land suitable for grazing. We need to formally acknowledge the historical connection and contributions leaseholders have made in maintaining the land in pristine conditions over many generations, sometimes almost 200 years. We need to enable the proclamation of heritage areas. We must allow for greater local community involvement in the management of park and reserve areas. Many issues concern me and my constituents. I have much trouble in supporting the land-grab aspects of this bill.
Ms ALLAN (Wentworthville) [11.06 p.m.]: I support the National Park Estate (Southern Region Reservations) Bill. I had a sense of deja vu as I listened to some previous speakers from the other side of the Chamber, but their comments did not have quite the intensity we might have heard in previous years when we discussed Regional Forest Agreement legislative mechanisms for the northern parts of the State or for Eden. I thought I would take the opportunity to get them going! This is significant legislation. As the Deputy Premier said in his second reading speech, since 1995 the Government has created 1.4 hectares of new parks and reserves under this type of legislation.
Mr Webb: He got that wrong too, according to the proof version. It is 1.4 million hectares.
Ms ALLAN: That is right, he did too. I am very pleased to see the honourable member can have an alternative career in Hansard once he has left the Coalition. When we used to debate legislation affecting reservations in the northern part of the State it was always the southern region that had the outstanding reservations. Before the 1999 election there was much stress and tension particularly in the conservation movement, perhaps also in the timber industry, because they would have liked this type of conclusion to their negotiations over the southern region. Of course, the physical timetable did not allow that to be achieved. One reason for that was, as mentioned in the Deputy Premier's address, the amount of exhaustive and probably exhausting consultation co-ordinated by the Resource and Conservation Assessment Council [RACAC].
It had responsibility to run the forest assessment process. I remind the House, as the Deputy Premier said, since 1995 the Resource and Conservation Assessment Council has done an absolutely excellent job in determining a number of these controversial issues not only in negotiations with relevant stakeholders because they are all represented on the council but also for the future of the reserve system across the State. The Deputy Premier particularly complimented the executive officer of RACAC, Rex Bowen, who is about to retire. I believe Rex actually retires this week from his position on RACAC. I congratulate Rex Bowen on a job well done since 1995 in ensuring that RACAC did its job, that it was able to negotiate through the various minefields that often came before it on these particular issues. Congratulations Rex, I wish you well in your retirement.
Opposition members have raised a number issues in their contributions. It is interesting that the honourable member for Ballina signalled that the Opposition will not oppose the legislation but the Opposition has taken the opportunity to trot out its regular objections in this type of debate. We have heard all about weeds, how many there are and how the National Parks and Wildlife Service is hopeless at controlling them. We have heard all about the problems of this type of new legislation that creates new parks and reserves, with the result that there are many more neighbours for the National Parks and Wildlife Service to take care of. According to the Coalition, the National Parks and Wildlife Service does an inadequate job and therefore it will not be able to cope with the hundreds of thousands of reserves and parks that are coming under its regime.
The honourable member for Ballina also raised some doubts about the number of national parks that are being created by this legislation. In one lucid moment the honourable member for Ballina said there must be something intrinsically wrong with legislation if it creates national parks. The Opposition has also said that this legislation will create great inconvenience and possible hardship for people with current grazing permits in these areas. Both the honourable member for Eden Monaro and the honourable member for Ballina took the opportunity to quote—
Mr Webb: It is just Monaro: It is not Eden Monaro; that is the Federal seat. That shows how much you know. Monaro is the State electorate.
Ms ALLAN: You are getting very excited. I know it is late in the evening but you should be aware you are getting too excited. Maybe you should take a little tranquilliser and have a little lie down. You had the opportunity to speak but obviously you cannot listen to others speak. Both the honourable member for Monaro and the honourable member for Ballina spoke at length about the fact that people who currently have grazing permits in these areas will be grossly inconvenienced and will probably have their livelihoods destroyed. I will go through those points.
It is interesting that all those types of issues have been raised in previous debates about these important matters when discussing Fegional Forest Agreements for the south and in the north. In relation to the north, the Coalition raised the same issues. Yet, they are not prepared to oppose this legislation. That reflects the concern that the Government has about the Coalition's policies. The Coalition has major objections about the way the National Parks and Wildlife Service actually operates, and it has major concerns about government expenditure in a number of these areas, but it is not prepared to show courage and oppose the legislation.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Lynch): Order! I call the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to order.
Ms ALLAN: Rather, it wants to pussyfoot about and rubbish the National Parks and Wildlife Service, rubbish the Government for creating new national parks and reserves, rubbish the Government for underfunding in areas such as weed control and grazing controls, but it is not prepared to oppose the bill. I am not sure why. Why do they not have the courage of their convictions? Why are they not out there opposing the legislation? They are just taking the opportunity to rubbish the managers of the land. They do not like the outcomes but they are not prepared to oppose them.
In the past when people such as the honourable member for Coffs Harbour led the Opposition charge they would actually oppose the legislation. They had the courage of their convictions and they opposed the legislation. By the way, I am really interested to know how the comments of the Coalition tonight will match the environmental policies released recently by the honourable member for Southern Highlands.The Opposition rubbishes the National Parks and Wildlife Service and rubbishes the creation of new national parks and reserves but does not give those agencies any credit for the considerable work they do. I cannot believe their comments about people with grazing permits being disadvantaged. Most of the work of the National Parks and Wildlife Service in the northern parts of this State has related to regional forest agreements in the northern areas in negotiating gradual exits for people with grazing permits.
Mr D. L. Page: That is absolute rubbish!
Ms ALLAN: That is not absolute rubbish. What have the people in the National Parks and Wildlife Service been doing?
Mr D. L. Page: That is not true. You kicked them off.
Ms ALLAN: Rubbish. How many times—
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER: Order! I call members of the Opposition to order.
Ms ALLAN: How many times has the Opposition negotiated outcomes with delegations from the National Parks and Wildlife Service? You are badmouthing an agency that has worked very hard to negotiate sensible outcomes. You are frightening these people.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Monaro to order.
Ms ALLAN: The new honourable member for Monaro has such a strong opinion on everything but very little knowledge.
Mr Webb: You go and see these people and you will realise their knowledge.
Ms ALLAN: You are very courageous when you are on that side of the Chamber.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Monaro will resume his seat. If he again behaves in that way I will ask the Serjeant-at-Arms to remove him from the House.
Ms ALLAN: I will be advising the National Parks and Wildlife Service that despite the very nasty comments that have been made in the Chamber tonight by some members opposite the service should still enter into bona fide negotiations with people with grazing permits. It should not be discouraged by the lies that are being peddled by members of the Coalition on this issue. It should continue to negotiate successful exits for these people even though that might mean that the process is a little delayed. That is what happened in the northern regional forest assessment.
Mr Webb: Close down the farms. Make them unviable.
Ms ALLAN: I wish you would do your homework.
Mr Webb: I have done my homework, don't worry about that.
Ms ALLAN: I wish you were aware of that before you came into the Chamber, rather than just rubbishing the National Parks and Wildlife Service, which does an excellent job. One of my other major concerns with the comments of the honourable member for Ballina is that he badmouthed the National Parks and Wildlife Service. He made an explicit comment that it would not be able to cope with the new reserves and parks being created. I would like to hear his comments on the effectiveness of the management regimes that are already in place in the northern areas of the State as a result of the northern regional forest assessment.
Mr D. L. Page: Where is the money for this legislation? You have not announced any extra money.
Ms ALLAN: You should do your homework as well. It is disgraceful that year after year for the past 10 or 11 years you have made the same ridiculous comments about these types of proposals. Progress has occurred and funds have been provided. The timber industry and the conservation movement have been reasonably happy with the outcome. That is the sort of successful outcome that is being arrived at as a result of the efforts of the Resource and Conservation Assessment Council. Yet the honourable member for Ballina still makes crude and ignorant comments. His support of the Federal Minister, Mr Tuckey, on this issue is interesting. We know how bad his behaviour is. He is always attacking State governments—usually New South Wales, but increasingly Victoria—on their efforts in negotiating regional forest agreements. Obviously, as has been indicated in debate, Mr Tuckey has not quite signed off on this, so perhaps members of the Opposition are not opposing this bill lest they ruffle Mr Tuckey's feathers. For whatever reason the Opposition is insinuating support for him.
Mr Webb: No, the shadow Minister expressed concern that your State Government has not signed it either.
Ms ALLAN: You know nothing! Why don't you go back and do some homework? You are cruelling your constituents' attempts to get successful outcomes by coming into this Parliament and absolutely—
Mr Webb: Rubbish, I am representing my constituents.
Ms ALLAN: You don't know anything! You don't even make an attempt to negotiate with the National Parks and Wildlife Service. I strongly advise your constituents to leave you out of any negotiations or deputations with the National Parks and Wildlife Service because you obviously cannot control yourself. If you cannot control yourself in here, how can you control yourself in a deputation? Why don't you grow up and behave yourself? People such as the honourable member for Ballina, who has been here since 1988, should try to teach you some manners. The honourable member for Monaro is talking to people who had the opportunity to negotiate with land-holders quite successfully in many regions of the State, so do not accuse this Government of being arrogant about land-holders. In fact, we bent over backwards to try to negotiate with them in relation to the southern regions. Despite the fact that you obviously have considerable concern, and that it has certainly upset you and increased your blood pressure, you are still not prepared to vote against the legislation. Why is that?
Mr Webb: I said that I might.
Ms ALLAN: You might! You are going to show the courage of your convictions? You will have a conscience vote on this issue? I would like to see that because, if you oppose the legislation, that will send some strong signals to the stakeholders that have been responsible for its creation. Send those appropriate signals to the conservation movement. Send them to the timber industry, the unions and the regional communities who will benefit from this legislation. I hope the honourable member for Monaro takes the opportunity to stop being a hypocrite, because that is what he has been up-to-date, and votes against the bill.
I obviously support the bill. It is timely because now that the coastal regions in the south are being covered by the bill it allows the Government to tackle those other priority areas in the western part of the State. An enormous amount of research is currently being undertaken by the Resource and Conservation Assessment Council [RACAC] on the western forests. It is a major priority for the Government and the conservation movement. We are very proud of our record with the new national parks we have created since 1995. But it is glaringly obvious that protection of public and private land is needed in western New South Wales. Now that the southern region reservations bill is virtually complete the RACAC can focus its attention on western New South Wales.
I take the opportunity to complement Rex Bowen and the previous chair of RACAC, Gerry Gleeson, who left the job only late last year. He has been appropriately succeeded. RACAC continues to do excellent work. With the help of the constituent agencies, particularly State Forests and the National Parks and Wildlife Service, it addresses a number of the problems that have been raised by the Coalition in the debate. I reiterate that despite those problems being raised it is very unlikely that the Opposition members will put their money where their mouth is and oppose the bill. I invite the honourable member for Monaro to vote against the bill if he feels so strongly about it.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Anderson.