Bush Forever Sites - Perth Metropolitan Region

Extract from Hansard
[COUNCIL — Wednesday, 10 August 2011]
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Hon Lynn MacLaren; Hon Helen Morton; Hon Ken Travers; Hon Giz Watson; Hon Alison Xamon

BUSH FOREVER SITES — PERTH METROPOLITAN REGION

Motion

Resumed from 22 June on the following motion moved by Hon Alison Xamon —

That this house notes the finalisation of the Bush Forever metropolitan region scheme amendment and
the associated “State Planning Policy 2.8, Bushland Policy for the Perth Metropolitan Region”, and
calls on the Barnett government to go further and protect Perth’s unique urban bushland in perpetuity
by —

(a) guaranteeing statutory protection for those same Bush Forever sites;

(b) legislating or introducing regulations to ensure an appropriate standard of management for
those sites; and

(c) appropriately funding that management.

HON LYNN MacLAREN (South Metropolitan) [2.22 pm]: I will continue my remarks in support of the
motion before the house. I first want to acknowledge that we are joined in the public gallery today by the
committee of the Urban Bushland Council. I want to acknowledge the longstanding work done by the council
over the years, and I particularly want to acknowledge Mary Gray, who I know is in the gallery today. I want to
express my appreciation for the long volunteer hours that that group of people put in year after year.

In my earlier response to this motion, I looked at the urban bush that is under threat in the South Metropolitan
Region, in particular the Bush Forever site 244, which is the Beeliar wetlands, and the biodiversity and
conservation values there. I also looked at Bush Forever site 395, which is Paganoni Swamp, and I detailed some
of the biodiversity and conservation values there. I was about to go into detail about proposals to build a marina
at Point Peron. It was in beginning those comments that we had several entertaining interjections from the other
side of the house, and one of them was with regard to the graceful sun moth, which had been located at Point
Peron. One of my honourable colleagues on the other side felt the best place for the graceful sun moth was in the
grille of his car. I found that a very offensive comment, and I am hoping that, at some stage, the honourable
member will seek an opportunity to apologise for that comment, because this is one of the endangered species at
Point Peron and the member well knows that his proposal is threatening the existence of that species.

I quoted from the draft environmental scoping document for the Point Peron marina project. It is noted in the
document that the majority of this project actually falls within the Rockingham Lakes Regional Park; that is
Bush Forever site 355. Cape Peron is considered to be a large and protected representation of the Quindalup
vegetation complex. Among the threatened ecological communities in that area is the thrombolite community,
which is a microbial community in Lake Richmond; I know that many members from the South Metropolitan
Region will be aware of the thrombolite community there. This project could result in changes to the water level
and the chemistry in Lake Richmond, and that may well impact negatively on the lake’s thrombolites.

Also listed in the scoping document is the graceful sun moth, Synemon gratiosa; the priority listed lined skink,
Lerista lineata, and six migratory bird species of conservation significance that have been recorded in the area.
This land is of important conservation value. It was entrusted to the state for the benefit of all Western
Australians and it deserves more protection than it currently has.

I will conclude my remarks on the motion by looking in detail at Jandakot. The Jandakot bushland is an area that
we have considered previously in this house, but this yet again demonstrates how we have proposals for
development in areas that we thought were safe from development and that are being lost to us on a daily basis.

My remarks at the beginning of this speech were about the Auditor General’s report, which actually documents
the scale of the loss of habitat we have had in Western Australia. The Greens have fought long and hard to
protect the fragile biodiversity surrounding Jandakot Airport; nevertheless, the federal government approved the
proposed expansion of the airport holdings, which involved clearing 220 hectares of high-quality remnant
bushland. The bush at Jandakot Airport was identified as regionally significant under the Western Australian
Bush Forever policy, and described as one of the best remaining examples of banksia woodland on the Swan
coastal plain by the Register of the National Estate. The site offered high-quality habitat for dozens of native
plants and animals, including the nationally endangered Carnaby’s black cockatoo, the grand spider orchid, and
the glossy-leaved hammer orchid. It also overlies the shallow Jandakot groundwater mound, a priority 1 water
source protection area which is highly vulnerable to contamination.

On 27 January 2010 I wrote to the then federal environment minister, Peter Garrett, urging him to reject the
proposal on Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act environmental and social grounds. I
argued that the natural habitat was at risk through the plans for expansion and should be protected because of the
threatened species that lived there. I argued that the commercial development proposed for the area would
impact greatly on the region and was inappropriate in scale. In fact, I subsequently visited that cleared area and I
can tell members that there are some thriving large industrial complexes already in place on what was previously
Carnaby’s habitat. I also argued that the community that lived near the airport had complained about the increase
in noise and traffic, as well as the destruction of urban bushland near their homes.

Having received no reply to my first letter, I wrote to the federal environment minister again in February 2010.
My second letter provided specific and compelling information on the grounds for rejecting the proposal. The
then state Minister for Environment, Hon Donna Faragher, reported that the mapping of potential Carnaby’s
cockatoo habitat in the region indicated that there was approximately 13 756 hectares of suitable vegetation
within a 20-kilometre radius of Jandakot Airport. The Beeliar Regional Park provided more than 10 per cent of
this habitat; members will be well aware that the Beeliar Regional Park is at risk from the Roe Highway stage 8
extension. I warned the minister that the integrity of the entire Beeliar Regional Park was—it still is—under
threat from the proposed highway extension, which at the time had a road reservation footprint of 112 hectares; I
think it is now only 79 hectares.

Minister Faragher also reported that there were only 14 areas of bushland containing banksia woodland of
similar or greater size as the Jandakot Airport bushland on the Swan coastal plain.

Of these, only five are located in the South Metropolitan Region. I requested that the minister take into
consideration the significant loss of bushland as a result of the clearing of the metropolitan region, and the fact
that there are only 14 areas of similar or greater size. I also mentioned the 1993 Environmental Protection
Authority submission to the commonwealth, which was to “retain as much uncleared land as possible”. The
minister stated that the proposed expansion was in direct conflict to System 6 recommendation M94, and the
Western Australian EPA report bulletin 690 of July 1993 on the future expansion of Jandakot Airport. The
System 6 study identified that vegetation on the airport land was dense and largely undisturbed, and of regional
significance.

The significance was underlined when this area was subsequently included in the state government’s Bush
Forever policy, which is the subject of this motion. The System 6 recommendation M94 was that the
commonwealth of Australia retain as much uncleared land as possible. By now, members can probably work out
the direction of this argument, which is that we have lost that bushland in spite of all the protections and policies
put in place over the years, whether they were called System 6, Bush Forever, or Bushplan, as it was at one
point. That is something of significance that this house should consider, and I urge all members to support Hon
Alison Xamon’s motion now before us.

In my letter to the then federal minister I mentioned the threatened fauna. There were two recorded species of
conservation significance, being the western brush wallaby and the southern brown bandicoot. They are
respectively listed as priority 4 and 5 species by the Department of Environment and Conservation. In October
2009, I asked the then state Minister for Environment how many wallabies and bandicoots were in that region, to
which her reply was —

It is not known how many Western Brush Wallabies and Southern Brown Bandicoots live in the area
proposed to be cleared.

I asked the minister to detail any advice that the department had received from the Minister for Environment or
the Department of Environment and Conservation, and how they would be managed if the area was cleared. I
raised concerns that the offset regime was not guaranteed. The former state environment minister, Hon Donna
Faragher, also stated that —

… matters pertaining to the long term sustainable management of conservation and environmental
matters are governed by the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act
1994.

Yet, no details had been released at the time regarding the type of offset regime the government would impose
for the airport expansion. I asked the minister to describe what, if any, offset regime was being considered,
particularly in light of the decision by the City of Canning to withdraw its support for the proposal by Jandakot
Airport Holdings, and the fact that it would not be making the offset land it owned adjacent to the site available
for offsetting.

On 19 March 2010 my letters were still unanswered. The Rudd government approved the Jandakot Airport
master plan, and on 26 March it granted environmental approval of future development at Jandakot Airport. I
finally received a response to my initial letter to the federal environment minister four months later, on
17 May—after the decision to approve the development had been made. Needless to say, none of my concerns
had been addressed or my questions answered. Instead, the minister—Peter Garrett at the time—assured me that,

“The stringent environmental conditions I have attached to my approval for this project will ensure all matters of
environmental significance with the potential to be significantly impacted by this project will be properly
protected.”

If the initial estimates of the Carnaby’s black cockatoos from the Great Cocky Count this year are anything to go
by, I suggest that the then minister was horribly mistaken. We know that on 20 May 2010, I moved that the
upper house call on the Rudd government to reconsider its 19 March approval of the Jandakot Airport master
plan and the 26 March environmental approval of future development at Jandakot Airport. I was concerned about
the lack of proper integration between the new development within the airport land, and the state and local
planning authorities, and we canvassed these issues thoroughly in the motion before the chamber at that time. I
also mentioned the unacceptable risk to the quality and quantity of groundwater, and the environmental values of
the Jandakot mound. Finally, I mentioned the loss of yet more Bush Forever land, with the promise of offsets
unlikely to adequately compensate for that loss. Unfortunately, that motion was not supported by other members,
and was therefore defeated. This bushland should never have been cleared, and that example clearly illustrates
the weakness in our current legislation. We have failed miserably to protect urban bushland.

Species are at risk; it is not just habitats that are threatened by the inadequacy of current conservation legislation.
The loophole in the protection of habitats means that although endangered species are protected on paper, in
reality they are seriously under threat. A prime example of this is the Carnaby’s black cockatoo. This species is
listed as endangered under the commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999,
and as rare or likely to become extinct under the Western Australian Wildlife Conservation Act 1950. It lives
only in the south west of Australia, and it is threatened by habitat destruction. It is difficult to know how many
Carnaby’s black cockatoos are left, but it is known that their population has declined by over 50 per cent in the
past 45 years, and their range has been reduced by one-third. Initial results from the Great Cocky Count indicate
that the number of Carnaby’s black cockatoos may have been reduced by as much as one-third in just the past
year, and yet the government still appears to be hell-bent on destroying a further 78 hectares of their habitat for
the proposed Roe 8 extension through the Beeliar wetlands. The future of this enigmatic species looks bleak
unless stringent regulation is passed to prevent the further erosion of its habitat.

Not only is preserving bushland important for conserving our threatened wildlife, but also bushlands have other
important functions that are rarely given adequate weighting when the government is assessing proposals. These
include improving air quality, aesthetic value, public amenity, climate modification, energy conservation, noise
reduction, hydrological and salinity control, carbon sequestration, and nutrient cycling. Such functions are
commonly referred to as “ecosystem services”, and they can be quantified. Professor Paul Hardisty, the global
director of Sustainability and EcoNomics for WorleyParsons and an expert on this topic, states that the value of
the ecosystem services provided by typical bushland is in the region of $500 to $1 000 a hectare, a year. The
value of rare or ecologically sensitive bushlands and wetlands is much larger. It can be up to $15 000 a hectare, a
year. Professor Hardisty calculates that the economic damage caused by the proposed Roe 8 extension from the
loss of ecosystem services is likely to be around $62 million, and could be as much as $122 million. Sadly, such
analysis is lacking from the public environmental review report that has been released for Beeliar wetlands and
the Roe 8 project.

When assessing the case for a new development, the government frequently talks about the need for a balance
between conservation and development. In my speech I have only considered the South Metropolitan Region,
and I have given several examples that have recently happened and are within our memory of bushland being
lost. If we look at the overall metropolitan region, it is clear that the balance was outstripped decades ago. It is
clearly time to draw a line in the sand and protect the few habitat fragments we have left. For that purpose, the
motion before us should be supported by each member of this house. It is on our watch that this degradation is
occurring, and the impacts are long term for future generations. I therefore urge members to support the motion.
We need to adequately look after our bushland, we need to fund the management programs and we need to
support the motion today.