Bush Forever Sites - Perth Metropolitan Region

Extract from Hansard
[COUNCIL — Wednesday, 22 June 2011]
Hon Alison Xamon; Hon Dr Sally Talbot; Hon Lynn MacLaren



HON LYNN MacLAREN (South Metropolitan) [3.47 pm]: I want to speak in favour of this motion and also in support of the comments made by the previous speaker. That is exactly the direction in which we want to go with this issue. We definitely want to see some more funding for bushland and some proper management of what the government has done so very well to put into the Bush Forever amendment.

First of all, I stress, as did the previous speakers, the importance of the biodiversity we have in Western Australia. We know that Western Australia is globally significant for its biodiversity; I think that is universally acknowledged. Over half of Australia’s biodiversity hot spots are in WA, and the South West is internationally recognised for its biodiversity. But we know that this resource is under threat. One of the first things I did as an elected member was attend the briefing from the Auditor General on his report released in June 2009 titled Rich and Rare: Conservation of Threatened Species. It was a damning report of our failure to stop the growing extinction rate. I will quote from the Auditor General’s report, because he took the time to identify what we needed to do to do better. It states —

"DEC is not effectively protecting and recovering threatened species. The number of threatened species is rising and only a few species are improving. Recovery action is not happening for most threatened species. The majority of resources and effort are allocated to critically endangered species, placing vulnerable and endangered species at risk of further decline."

The Auditor General’s findings state that 601 species in Western Australia are listed as threatened with extinction and the number is increasing. In 2008 there were 601 species. By 2010, the number of species had increased to 611. I will not list everything that the Auditor General stated. I know that many members have seen this report because we have talked about it frequently. I am happy to provide a copy for any members who have not seen it. The report pointed out that although the creation of reserves is a key habitat conservation mechanism, less than half the amount of land agreed under the national target has been reserved in Western Australia. On
average it takes a decade for acquired land to become a reserve. This highlights the fact that we need to preserve what we already have, such as the remnant bush that Hon Sally Talbot talked about. I think the government took a good step in the right direction by introducing Bush Forever. When the Auditor General released that report in 2009, the decline of endangered species was continuing. In fact, altogether 6 812 hectares of bushland in the Perth metropolitan area was cleared, just between 2001 and 2009.

As a member for the South Metropolitan Region, I have seen much of this clearing. We often talk about the major industrial development Latitude 32.That will clear a lot of bushland. The Beeliar wetlands is under threat from development, as is, most recently, the area near Jandakot Airport. Hon Robin Chapple and I were guests of General Electric, which has established a very good factory on what was a Bush Forever site in Jandakot. GE will train people and it will be a very important addition to our economy, but the cost is, I think, too great. In the Jandakot area we lost 220 hectares of high-quality remnant bushland of which 167 hectares was banksia woodland and we have heard that that is a Carnaby’s black cockatoo habitat. Carnaby’s black cockatoos are under threat and one problem is that it is death by a thousand cuts. With many pieces of bushland being developed for various reasons, no-one seems to be looking at the overall impact on species such as the Carnaby’s black cockatoo, which need a large range to forage. Their habitat is unfortunately rapidly decreasing to the extent that the latest group trying to save a species from extinction is the Cockatoo Coalition. Forty grand spider orchids and four glossy-leafed hammer orchids were identified in that area of Jandakot bushland. The decision to clear that bushland was made before all the flora and fauna surveys had been completed, so we know only that there were at least four glossy-leafed hammer orchids. I will not go into the details of the loss that we have suffered due to the clearing of that Jandakot bushland. All members need do is visit Jandakot and if they ever went there before, they will see the devastation that has since occurred.

I welcome the motion before us today, although it has been a long time in coming to debate it. However, there is no time like the present to start saving some bush. Urgent action is clearly needed to protect our bushlands. It is clear that the current legislation is completely inadequate and I think that this motion goes some way in identifying three ways in which we can act now to protect our bushland by not only designating it as Bush Forever, but also actively protecting it. We know that Bush Forever sites continue to be trampled under Perth’s ever increasing metropolitan footprint. This should not be left only to the Department of Environment and Conservation; the Department of Planning, the Department of State Development and the Department of Water—everyone who ever uses our natural resources—need to take this on board as priority number one because it is not our right to cause the extinction of an animal or plant.

A number of the Bush Forever sites in the South Metropolitan Region are currently under threat, highlighting the urgent need for their statutory protection. I will talk a bit about Beeliar wetlands, Point Peron and Paganoni Swamp, which is a good news story. We know that the Roe Highway stage 8 extension is marching ahead in plans to destroy the long list of valuable assets that this state has in the Beeliar wetlands. Already, more than 80 per cent of the wetlands on the Swan coastal plain have been destroyed and even those valuable wetlands that remain are still under threat. It is a serious concern and one that should take our utmost attention. Beeliar
wetlands is a network of wetlands that includes North Lake, Bibra Lake and Roe Swamp. It is a sanctuary for wildlife. I encourage members to visit it because it showcases outstanding biodiversity. South Metro Connect, which has put out its public environmental review documents, has documented all the biodiversity that we are about to lose if that road goes through, and I will mention a few. There is a range of endangered species, including the Carnaby’s black cockatoo, southern brown bandicoot, graceful sun moth, lined skink, hooded plover, peregrine falcon, king spider orchid, spotless crake and the buff-banded rail. Members may not be familiar with these animals, plants, birds and crawling things. In fact, South Metro Connect identified one centipede that had never been seen before; it does not even know what the name of it is.

Hon Helen Morton: Hon Michael Mischin calls me a graceful sun moth all the time!

Hon LYNN MacLAREN: That is valid.

Hon Col Holt: Are you saying that we’re going to lose all those if that road goes through?

Hon LYNN MacLAREN: I am saying that we will lose a huge chunk of habitat for all those species and that some will be threatened. Some species, such as the southern brown bandicoot, need to be protected from the construction. People will try to put fences up so that the bandicoots are not run over by bulldozers, but certainly that habitat will be lost. In some cases, such as that of the graceful sun moth, which is critically endangered, we may lose the species. However, I remind members that this wetland area identified for a road is recognised through its inclusion in Bush Forever site 244. Did I say “Bush Forever site”? Yes, Bush Forever site 244. The Environmental Protection Authority has argued that any road alignment through this area would be rejected as it severs the linkages between wetlands resulting in serious biodiversity impacts. Despite its recognised value, this area is threatened by the proposed Roe Highway stage 8 extension. I loved the notion brought up by Hon Sally Talbot that basically this government may be filtering traffic from Liberal seats into Labor seats. I thought that was hilarious. In fact, it makes the most sense of any suggestion that I have heard so far about the reason for that road!

Hon Simon O’Brien: It’s not a bad idea!

Hon LYNN MacLAREN: It may be an idea that was thought of so long ago that the member might not even remember what the basis of the road was. It was based on a plan in the 1950s—does the member remember?

Hon Simon O’Brien interjected.

Hon LYNN MacLAREN: I do not think that Hon Simon O’Brien remembers the 50s.

Hon Simon O’Brien: No, I wasn’t around in the 50s, unlike Hon Robin Chapple, who was voting then! He was out protesting somewhere.

Hon LYNN MacLAREN: The point is that this antiquated design has no role to play in solving our transport problems in 2011; this is not 1950. This is one of the last wetlands of high biodiversity value on the Swan coastal plain, yet we still trudge on with the old idea that it would really be better if it was covered in cement and asphalt so that we can roll our cars over it. I think not. The road should never have been planned in the first place. Our urban planning has gone far beyond the need for that road. Really, the departments and the ministers need to catch up and do something different.

Hon Simon O’Brien: In the local paper the other day—I think it was the Cockburn Gazette—there was a picture of Hon Ken Travers and Hon Kate Doust on the front page, and Hon Ken Travers was agreeing that Roe Highway did need to extend west of Kwinana Freeway so that it would serve Fiona Stanley Hospital at Murdoch. Did you see that?

Hon LYNN MacLAREN: I saw that there is a counter-suggestion that a link be put in to Fiona Stanley Hospital from Roe 7, which we might say might be considered the beginning of the Roe 8 extension. The minister mentioned Fiona Stanley Hospital. That is the other big clearing that has occurred in the South Metropolitan Region. I do not have the figure in front of me for the exact number of hectares. Does the minister remember how many hectares of bush were cleared for Fiona Stanley Hospital? Tremendous offsets were required for that, and it would be good to get an update on where those offsets were. But, yes, I did see that article.

Paganoni Swamp is a good news story; so I am mixing a bit of good with the bad. Paganoni Swamp was a valuable wetland that was threatened by the idea of a development. I think they were talking about a transit oriented development—I think it was the City of Kwinana, but it might have been the City of Rockingham. That clearly demonstrated how our system is failing our rare and threatened wildlife. Paganoni Swamp is Bush Forever site 395. That site was proposed to be rezoned urban in the draft south metropolitan and Peel subregional structure plan to support Karnup train station. The first anyone heard of this proposal was when the Friends of Paganoni Swamp heard about it. As Hon Sally Talbot has mentioned, there are a lot of people in the community who care a lot about their local bushland.

Hon Helen Morton: They do excellent work.

Hon LYNN MacLAREN: Yes, they do excellent work. They actually saw a tiny four-point caption on a map in this structure plan that flagged the possible rezoning of prime conservation land on the north-west corner of Paganoni Swamp. This would have resulted in the destruction of 48 hectares of what was one of the most significant conservation reserves in the South Metropolitan Region. Why somebody would think that was a good idea in the first place I do not know. The area was subject to rezoning buffers. It is a high conservation value wetland and consists mainly of tuart woodland, of which less than 30 per cent remains on the Swan coastal plain.
Furthermore, it is home to a number of rare and endangered species, including Carnaby’s black cockatoo and the chuditch.

Hon Phil Edman interjected.

Hon LYNN MacLAREN: No, but Hon Phil Edman would be aware that there was a sun moth near Point Peron. After more than two years of ardent lobbying by the Friends of Paganoni Swamp, the Minister for Planningadvised in December 2010 that the entire area would now be reserved in the metropolitan region scheme forparks and recreation. Our valuable bushland remnants should not need to rely on the vigilance of our local voluntary conservation groups to ensure their protection. However, it was very good that this group was able tosave that bushland and that the minister responded so proactively to do that. That was a very good outcome for that Bush Forever area, and hopefully we can keep that land as Bush Forever.

Point Peron is another area that is under threat. That is a long stretch of land at the southern end of Cockburn Sound. It is a very popular place for families and social gatherings. Generations of Western Australian schoolchildren will be familiar with the camps at Point Peron.

Hon Alison Xamon: I used to go there!

Hon LYNN MacLAREN: Yes. Are there any members in this chamber who did not go to Point Peron as a child? It would probably be just people like me who did not grow up in Western Australia. It is amazing how many people have childhood memories and a connection with that area. However, these memories are in danger of remaining just memories, because a land grab is proposed, with the building of a canal—a canal that will cut into the peninsula—for a marina, and luxury housing, in what is a public reserve.

Hon Norman Moore: What about social housing? Would that be all right?

Hon LYNN MacLAREN: I do not believe there is a plan for social housing there, Leader of the House. I have never seen any social housing on that plan. Plans are on the cards for 77 hectares of land to be used to build a private canal marina precinct. I believe that at one point it was called a tourist precinct, and it then became just a marina. I am not sure what the private–public partnership is going to deliver in that area. But one thing it will deliver is the clearing of bushland habitat and the devastation forever of what was vested in this state government to be a parks and recreation reserve. The development will consist, apparently, of private residential housing, and a marina with a capacity for up to 500 vessels.

Hon Phil Edman interjected.

Hon LYNN MacLAREN: Correct me if I am wrong, Hon Phil Edman, but the proposal will require that 44 hectares of publicly owned crown land near the entrance to Point Peron be excised from the Rockingham Lakes Regional Park. That will include approximately 35 hectares of land from the Bush Forever protection area.

Hon Phil Edman: It is just degraded land.

Hon LYNN MacLAREN: Did we actually classify degraded land as Bush Forever?

Hon Phil Edman: You would know that it is degraded, and that there are built facilities already there, Hon Lynn MacLaren. But we can all hold hands and sing Kumbaya if you want; there is no problem with that at all.

Hon LYNN MacLAREN: Do we now have to review the Bush Forever areas and find all the degraded land and make it into a marina?

Hon Alison Xamon: The bushland groups would be very interested to hear the contempt with which you view urban bushland, Hon Phil Edman! I certainly hope you are not intending to hand over any big Lotterywest cheques, and grinning and getting your face in the paper on the one hand, and, on the other hand, making comments like that in this place! You do not get to have it both ways!

Several members interjected.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Hon Matt Benson-Lidholm): Members, there is only one and a half minutes remaining for motions on notice. Let the member complete her speech, please.

Hon LYNN MacLAREN: Thank you, Mr Deputy President. It is my understanding that the very valuable bushland at Point Peron will be sold and cleared for private multistorey apartments and canal-side residences, a private marina, a hotel or resort with a maximum height of five storeys, shops and car parks. That is not what we would hope that this government, or any government, would envisage for a Bush Forever site. The proposal will require the clearing of 38 hectares of bushland, including 31 hectares of Bush Forever land. It is also likely to lead to an indirect loss of vegetation through the altered groundwater levels and/or quality. I want to quote from the draft environmental scoping document for the project.

Hon Norman Moore: You are quoting from your speech, which you are reading.

Hon LYNN MacLAREN: Which I typed out on this piece of paper.

Hon Simon O’Brien: You read beautifully! Go on.

Hon LYNN MacLAREN: Thank you.

Hon Norman Moore: If you are going to quote from your own speech, that is fine.

Hon LYNN MacLAREN: This is from the draft environmental scoping document. Would members like to hear what the draft environmental scoping document says?

Hon Phil Edman: When the marina is completed, I will take you for a spin! Too late—ding!

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Members, noting the time, we will move to consideration of committee reports.
Debate adjourned, pursuant to temporary orders.