BLUE GUM HIGH FOREST, ST IVES
Mr JONATHAN O'DEA
(Davidson) [12.22 p.m.]: I move:
1. Notes the substantial and unique heritage significance of Sydney’s Blue Gum High Forest, particularly at the Dalrymple Hay Nature Reserve/Browns Forest site at St Ives.
2. Calls on the Government to support the protection of the adjoining Blue Gum High Forest at 102 Rosedale Road, St Ives, and for the land concerned to be transferred to public ownership.
In support of the motion before the House, I point out the unique heritage significance of the blue gum high forest at St Ives and the successful acquisition by Ku-ring-gai Council of the last part of the forest that was in private ownership at 102 Rosedale Road. The blue gum high forest in St Ives is an important natural history asset in the Davidson electorate. It is the last intact remnant sustaining a complete balanced forest remaining from the mighty forest that once stretched in northern Sydney from Lane Cove to Waitara on the Wianamatta shale soils. We now have just 5 per cent of the original forest remaining, and some of that land is retained in reserves.
The remnant forest at St Ives comprises the Dalrymple-Hay Nature Reserve that was established in 1934, Browns Forest and an area of land owned by Sydney Water. In total, there are 17.7 hectares of blue gum high forest. This ecologically balanced area comprises a high canopy of blue gum, blackbutt and ironbark trees up to 30 metres high. Below the gums is a mid-level story of native shrubs and then a ground cover level. The area contains over 200 species of plants, and many birds and small animals. The forest, as the largest remaining remnant of the mighty blue gums, has been declared a critically endangered ecological community under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act. It is unique.
If our civilisation is to truly thrive on this planet in the longer term, we must preserve our assets such as cultural heritage, built heritage, living heritage and natural heritage. Without a many-pronged approach to the environment and conservation, the sustainable survival of the human race is threatened. I will briefly touch on each of the conservation areas to which I have referred, and then fit the surviving blue gum high forest into the picture. Our cultural heritage includes the Aboriginal culture that has been maintained on this continent for thousands of years. The Aboriginal peoples trod lightly on the ground and had a method of subsistence food gathering that meant they used only what they needed each day so that they had food for the next day. They were not builders but markers and gatherers, and they had a rich culture of language and traditions. That heritage was badly decimated, but I am pleased that we are now better recognising and preserving Aboriginal culture, including in my electorate of Davidson.
The cultural heritage that first arrived from Britain has been broadened by successive waves of people from all parts of the world coming to Australia. This imported heritage in the main has survived well and has been enriched over many years. For 50 years or more, our built heritage has been recognised as being important to our culture. Increasingly we are focused on preserving our European-style built heritage with a local flavour. Protection has been spearheaded by the National Trust of Australia. In Davidson we have many buildings of considerable heritage conservation value that are worthy of protection. Our living heritage is strongly preserved in Australia, including in this Parliament where we maintain some great traditions of the past but have an eye on today and the future. The Clerk of the House is a special part of Parliament. With a thoroughly modern mind that is as sharp as a tack, he maintains the legal frock coat and breeches of his predecessors many decades ago. Anzac Day is another great part of our living heritage.
Natural heritage has taken a battering in the past century. In the past 70 years our survival instinct appears to have waned, with grim warnings by some of what might happen in the future. Slowly the environment is becoming more a topic of concern, and that is especially so among our youth. In Sydney we have varying levels of ground pollution right across the city from industrial processes and the styles of living that people have adopted. Today we have the New South Wales Department of Environment and Climate Change; that would have been unheard of 60 years ago. The department is working on solutions and advice, and tagging of pollution sources. I commend the efforts of that department. Fortunately there is a growing band of citizens in New South Wales who share concerns; in turn, there are councils and others who identify environmental problems and remedies.
I turn now to discuss a success story in securing our natural heritage in Sydney—one more piece of the jigsaw. The remnant of Blue Gum High Forest at St Ives is a success story of which we may all be proud. In September 2007 I outlined in detail to the House the history of the Blue Gum High Forest as well as the struggle undertaken by local community groups and Ku-ring-gai Council in an effort to secure preservation of the whole forest. I am pleased to advise the House that the last remaining piece of the jigsaw that constitutes the Blue Gum High Forest at St Ives, which is Lot 102 Rosedale Road, has been acquired by Ku-ring-gai Council. That was made possible by funds provided by the Commonwealth Government and donations from the local Friends of the Blue Gum Forest, but the major part of the funding came from Ku-ring-gai Council. While the previous purchase of Lot 100 Rosedale Road utilised offset funding from the State Government, the State Government did not contribute to the latest purchase of Lot 102 Rosedale Road.
The final raising of the topic and lobbying for the acquisition of Lot 102 Rosedale Road was driven by the Blue Gum High Forest Group, which is led by the chairperson, Nancy Pallin. The group is a coalition of community organisations, including the South Turramurra Environment Protection group [STEP], which is a community environment group, and Friends of Ku-ring-gai Environment [FOKE]. Sydney Water owns an adjoining section of blue gum forest that is used for a reservoir and takes up only part of the Sydney Water site. I acknowledge Sydney Water's cooperation in allowing its unused area of forest to be treated as part of the forest preservation area. I ask the State Government to consider handing over the unused part of that site for inclusion in the broader reserve.
The future management of the forest is being carried out by levels of government under the auspices of the Commonwealth Government National Reserves System. Restoring the ecology of the forest is an ongoing task that is being carried out by the bush regeneration team of the Friends of the Blue Gum Forests, led by Neroli Lock. I acknowledge the team's great efforts and note that next Sunday they will be back on the job carrying out bush regeneration on the Sydney Water land. I express concern over the current planning push for overdevelopment in Ku-ring-gai that will allow five-storey developments to break through the tree canopy in areas where pockets of the Blue Gum High Forest still exist.
While we can preserve some natural areas, such as the surviving Blue Gum High Forest, fauna does not recognise reserve boundaries. Our native fauna are great travellers, each with their own priorities according to the time of day, seasons, weather, food sources, dangers and safe havens. As we slowly preserve what is left of our natural areas, including the remaining Blue Gum High Forest, another task is to link those areas with fauna corridors. Golf courses are ideal fauna corridors, but too often they are overfertilised and the understorey is cleared away—to save golf balls from being lost. Golf courses often do not manage understorey from the point of view of creating biodiversity and a fauna habitat. Pymble Golf Course is a key, but perhaps underappreciated, link in the fauna corridor between the Blue Gum High Forest and Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. Roseville Golf Course is another area where greater attention might be paid to habitat protection and biodiversity. Many of the issues and principles I have outlined are conservation issues that apply across New South Wales. I commend the motion to the House, not only as an acknowledgement of a small but significant success story relating to the Blue Gum High Forest at St Ives, but also as another part of the jigsaw of conservation in New South Wales.
Mr PHILLIP COSTA
(Wollondilly) [12. 28 p.m.]: I commend the member for Davidson for his passion and the people of Davidson for contributing considerable time and sacrifice to protecting the Blue Gum High Forest in the Davidson electorate. I share their passion. The Government is aware of the importance of conservation and the heritage significance of Sydney's Blue Gum High Forest. That is why the Government secured the transfer of land at Lot 100 Rosedale Road, St Ives. In the past I have travelled through that area, having once lived at Bayview.
Mr Rob Stokes:
Mr PHILLIP COSTA:
It is a lovely part of the world, as I am sure the member for Pittwater would agree. I very much appreciate the importance of the St Ives Blue Gum High Forest. I congratulate those who have worked with the Government to acquire 100 Rosedale Road, St Ives and transfer it into the Dalrymple-Hay Nature Reserve. The Department of Environment and Climate Change was instrumental in securing this land, using funding provided by the Transport Infrastructure Development Corporation to offset the loss of degraded blue gum remnants at Hornsby station. The Government and I appreciate that the community has an interest in also incorporating land at 102 Rosedale Road into the reserve. I assure the member for Davidson—and I will advocate for this on his behalf—that the Department of Environment and Climate Change is willing to incorporate these lands into the nature reserve in the future should funding become available.
I am actively involved in respect of reserves in my electorate. In fact, more than half of my electorate is covered by nature reserves and national park, and a considerable amount of surrounding land requires acquisition. But it is about having the funding not only to acquire that land but to manage it once it has been acquired. It is about getting the funding right. In the meantime, the department is working with Ku-ring-gai Council, which I believe acquired the land, and other North Shore councils to identify and protect existing remnants through a range of protection measures, including offset opportunities. Since Labor came to power in 1995 it has included in the reserve system some 400 parks across the State. That requires considerable resourcing. As I said earlier, it is about not just acquisition but having the funds to meet the ongoing costs of maintenance and management. That is a factor in my electorate. My electorate comprises an endangered ecological system, the Shale/Sandstone Transition Forest. It is not quite as majestic as the Blue Gum High Forest, but it is still a fantastic ecological area. We are in the process of trying to acquire that land, and we face the same problems with acquisition and ongoing funding. The land ranges in area from 10 hectares—in fact, one person might donate a 500-hectare parcel of land, which would be great. That is quite a substantial contribution. However, we must consider also the ongoing costs of managing the land.
I take my hat off to former Premier Carr for his actions in the area of conservation. At present about 8 per cent of the State is designated as national park—which is a considerable tract of land—and 34 per cent of the State coastline is designated as marine park. This Government has a strong and proud history of acquiring and managing ecologically important communities. I agree that the land at 102 Rosedale Road should be acquired some day, but funding must be available not only for its acquisition but for its ongoing management. As I said earlier, the department is working with Ku-ring-gai Council and other North Shore councils to identify and protect existing remnants through a range of measures, including offset opportunities. We look forward to Parliament putting in place over time the necessary protection measures and creating more reserves for our children and our children's children. The Government opposes the motion.
Mr ROB STOKES
(Pittwater) [12.33 p.m.]: I support the motion moved by my colleague and friend the member for Davidson. The first part of the motion notes:
the substantial and unique heritage significance of Sydney's Blue Gum High Forest, particularly at the Dalrymple Hay Nature Reserve/Browns Forest site at St Ives.
As residents from my electorate travel to the burgeoning commercial area of Macquarie Park, to Macquarie University or to schools and jobs elsewhere in Sydney, one of the few respites from the congestion on Mona Vale Road when travelling through St Ives—there is an increasing rash of unit developments throughout the area—is the tranquillity, quiet and majesty of the remaining ancient stand of the Blue Gum High Forest at Dalrymple-Hay reserve. It is a reminder of the majestic blue gum high forests that once covered Ku-ring-gai, Hornsby and Baulkham Hills of which only a few stands remain.
The Dalrymple-Hay reserve stands as a silent testimony to the amazing biodiversity that once existed across the metropolitan region. Every time I pass through the area, I am reminded—as I am sure every member would be—of my obligation to get land management right. The Dalrymple-Hay reserve is an example of how our predecessors in this place got land management wrong. The city developed in an unsustainable manner, whether through avarice or ignorance, and now only a few blue gum stands remain. We can learn from our predecessors a lesson about how to manage our natural land better in the future. That is a big part of reconciliation: it is about reconciling not just with the indigenous inhabitants of this country but with the country itself. We must recognise that we cannot continue to develop unsustainably; we must identify and protect the biodiversity that is left. Last night I was talking to my wife about this motion and she mentioned that her great-grandfather is the Dalrymple-Hay for which the Blue Gum High Forest is named. He was apparently a former commissioner of forests.
The Blue Gum High Forest reminds motorists travelling from Pittwater that it must be protected. The trees are statuesque, and they speak to us. The site is truly magnificent. Tragically, there is silence because the stand is small and cannot sustain much of the area's fauna. We must learn from that the lesson of preserving enough natural areas and corridors to enable fauna to remain and flourish. As the member for Davidson said, more than 200 years of intensive land use in the Sydney basin bioregion has severely affected the Blue Gum High Forest until less than 5 per cent of the original forest remains. This is why the Australian Government moved to heritage list the Blue Gum High Forest under the processes established in the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. I note that since 1995 the Federal Government has contributed almost $500,000 to help protect the remnants of the Blue Gum High Forest.
I note also that this is a wonderful example of how a local community, a local member—in this case, the member for Davidson—State Government agencies, the Federal Government and the local council can work together to secure good conservation outcomes. The member for Davidson should be justly proud of his efforts. I also recognise the contribution by Nancy Pallin, whom I have come to know slightly, in securing the area. It is a great example of community activism and democracy at a local level. The environmental movement is true, local, grassroots democracy. It is encouraging to see it working to preserve this area. I recognise the vision and commitment of Ku-ring-gai Council, which has earned the ire of the State Government on other occasions for opposing levels of urban consolidation. In this case, the council has worked with residents in accordance with its charter under the Local Government Act to preserve the local environment. I commend the motion to the House.
Mr DARYL MAGUIRE
(Wagga Wagga) [12.38 p.m.]: I offer my warmest congratulations to the member for Davidson for moving this motion and bringing this important issue to the House. The environment is most important. Of late there has been much media focus on greenhouse gas emissions and carbon trading. Sometime ago I raised in Parliament the issue of declaring the Livingstone forest, as it was then, a State forest in order to protect the land, its fauna and the resource to be found in the ironbark timber. This motion of the member for Davidson is to be commended. There is a little bit of green in all of us. We are all environmentally responsible but the question is how to balance that responsibility with job opportunities, so that people can live and be gainfully employed while respecting the environment and ensuring its protection, which the member for Davidson is certainly working towards.
Ms PRU GOWARD
(Goulburn) [12.40 p.m.]: Forests are a dwindling resource given the ever-increasing urban development of our city and State. The Ku-ring-gai Blue Gum High Forest is under the same pressures as all forests but even more so as it is located so centrally, being within the national park closest to the city centre. I support the motion of the member for Davidson to aid the efforts by Ku-ring-gai Council and the local community to purchase vacant lot 102 Rosedale Road adjoining the Dalrymple Hay Nature Reserve in order to ensure the forest's future protection and to create a buffer to secure the biodiversity of the area. The blue gum high forest which once covered significant areas of the North Shore has now dwindled in size and is now limited to only 17.7 hectares. To ensure the last of this unique environment we must act now to safeguard it for future generations.
The people of Ku-ring-gai, mindful of these pressures, have acted to protect this environment by donating their time and significant funds to protect their unique heritage and local environment. Considering the rising density of our cities and suburbs, and the demands on land and the threat of overdevelopment, the State Government should assist this acquisition. It should be a done deal, especially considering the amount of development that has been forced on local government recently. It is a heritage area so at risk that the National Trust felt compelled to nominate it in Australia's top ten most at-risk heritage items. Surely a State Government should extend its support to the community and the cause of the environment by helping with the purchase of 102 Rosedale Road in the heart of St Ives. This blue gum forest is representative of all forests in New South Wales in that it provides value in so many ways.
The benefits of forests are clearly evident. Forests provide key biodiversity and the wildlife and fauna habitats that are vital to the survival of Australia's so many threatened species. Blue gum forests contain over 200 species of plants, birds and small animals. Forests maintain the health of the environment and ensure the quality of air, water and soil. People also interact with the forest as a place of enjoyment and as a place to learn and more generally take on the interests of the environment. This is especially true of the Blue Gum High Forest, of which the people of Ku-ring-gai are so rightfully proud. This forest, a popular bushwalking site, allows respite from the pressures of the city and provides awareness-building opportunities for young people in particular. The local bushcare groups who weed and maintain the forest deserve special mention. Their wonderful civic engagement shows true care for their local environment: their actions speak louder than words.
The least the Government should do to help a local community that has such pride in the environment is to offer support and assistance, not to stonewall. Local groups including the Blue Gum High Forest Group, the National Trust, the Friends of Ku-ring-gai Environment, and Ku-ring-gai Council, have made great efforts to ensure the forest is protected and in good condition. These local groups by their actions have fought for the interests of the entire State. The State Government must not leave those groups to act alone and should support the protection of this heritage by enabling public ownership of 102 Rosedale Road. The Government's continual avoidance of the simple task of assisting the community with this acquisition demonstrates its shameful disregard of civic spirit.
Mr Barry Collier:
The council owns it! The council bought it.
Ms PRU GOWARD:
I think we are talking about the buffer zone. In a week in which we have seen changes to the Threatened Species Act that would remove the Land and Environment Court's oversight of the protection of our unique heritage on the Cumberland Plains, the Government chooses to continue its disregard of the interests of the environment. The Government's lack of support, through funding and process, for remnant natural environment in and around Sydney is further evidenced by its lack of interest in assisting with this simple acquisition to protect the Ku-ring-gai Blue Gum High Forest.
Mr JONATHAN O'DEA
(Davidson) [12.44 p.m.], in reply: I thank those members who contributed to the debate on this motion. I commend the member for Wollondilly for his stated passion for the environment, particularly in his own electorate; and generally the Government's efforts on a number of worthwhile environmental issues. That should be recognised. The member for Pittwater, as always, spoke eloquently on the importance of various initiatives, including getting land management right, and demonstrated his significant commitment to the environment not only in his electorate but in a broader sense. The member for Goulburn, the shadow Minister for Climate Change and the Environment, highlighted the great work of various local groups, the importance of environmental care and protection, and how this State Labor Government should be providing more support for protection of the Blue Gum High Forest in the St Ives region.
This is an example of a Government opposing an Opposition motion for the sake of opposing it. Too often we see a bloody-minded, silly approach. It is a shame that the Government is not open to debate and opposes the Opposition on this and other worthwhile initiatives for the sake of opposing. Yet it hypocritically criticises the Opposition for opposing Government initiatives when there is good reason to oppose them. I do not understand why the Government opposes this motion. The Blue Gum High Forest is of substantial and unique heritage significance, particularly the Dalrymple Hay Nature Reserve site at St Ives. The site at 102 Rosedale Road, St Ives, if not already transferred, is in the process of being transferred to public ownership courtesy of the previous Federal Coalition Government and the efforts of Ku-ring-gai Council and Friends of Blue Gum High Forest, who helped raise funds from local residents, including me.
The State Government has not provided any funding for the acquisition of 102 Rosedale Road, the last available blue gum high forest, as part of the reserve—and I earlier acknowledged the offset funding provided for 100 Rosedale Road—but I do not understand why the Government does not get on board at this late stage and demonstrate its support for this very worthwhile community initiative. I implore the Government to vote for this very sensible motion to acknowledge the significant efforts of numerous local community groups and thus demonstrate that it is truly interested in assisting local communities and in protecting worthwhile environmental initiatives and assets.
Question—That the motion be agreed to—put.
The House divided.
Mr J. H. Turner
Mr R. W. Turner
Mr R. C. Williams
Question resolved in the negative.
|Mr J. D. Williams||Ms Burton|