HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [10.10 pm]: I have been rising quite a lot recently to raise concerns about the planning process. Two of the concerns that I regularly raise are that community consultation is not being treated with the seriousness that it deserves and that our nature reserves are increasingly being treated as land banks rather than as irreplaceable treasures. Tonight I want to talk about some of the history of Neerabup National Park and surrounds, which is in my area of the North Metropolitan Region, and how the environmental conditions on scheme amendments and development approvals have not worked out as they were meant to.

Most recently, Main Roads has tabled a proposal to excise some of Neerabup National Park and Neerabup Nature Reserve as part of the work for the extension of the Mitchell Freeway. After much discussion with the community, the community decided that it would not pursue a disallowance against this proposal. However, there is a strong sense from this community that yet again, Neerabup National Park is being sacrificed, and decades of choosing development over keeping the park intact are simply continuing. Piece by piece, we are seeing the loss of that park in just the same way that, piece by piece, we are losing so much of our precious bushland across Perth. The northern corridor is planned to increase by well over 120 000 people in the next decade. Although, of course, the projections of the speed at which this is going to occur might be changing, the expectation of the ultimate numbers has not changed. This is a huge increase. We have seen and will continue to see our banksia woodland along the coastline removed to make way for these developments. I remind members that our banksia woodlands are now a matter of national environmental significance, not that that seems to stop us from destroying them. Over the years, the Environmental Protection Authority has recommended conditions and actions around the Neerabup National Park to account for the destruction of the surrounding environment. I am very sorry to tell members that to this day, crucial elements of these conditions remain unmet. I still hold concerns that we will continue to fracture and fragment this bushland, forgetting that that was never supposed to happen in the first place.

In 1990, in the EPA approval for stage 2 of the Burns Beach development, the EPA advised —

If implementation of the National Park rationalisation does not proceed, then the transport system (freeway and rail) will not be permitted to encroach on the National Park.

That is the Neerabup National Park. The Neerabup National Park boundary rationalisation would have been a net gain to the national park of 369 hectares. That is the loss of 140 hectares of excised land of national park plus the isolation of 63 hectares by the train and freeway line. The trade-off was supposed to be the addition of 432 hectares of land reserved for parks and recreation adjacent to the national park. That land is zoned as parks and recreation and the majority of it is Bush Forever. Some of it—we are talking about 111 hectares—is subject to a section 16 agreement under the Conservation and Land Management Act, meaning that it is managed for conservation processes. However, it does not have the formal protection of an A-class reserve and it is not part of the Neerabup National Park. This time, over this particular excision from the national park, after extensive consultation with my office, the community decided not to ask me to move a disallowance motion for a range of reasons. The possibilities were going to and fro. The reasons included that it was a small nibble being taken from the park and they were particularly concerned that it was an awkward time in the parliamentary cycle to move a disallowance motion, with no space or time to generate the type of public awareness campaign that would be needed. What makes it even more difficult is that Parliament will rise prior to the ordinary 30-day sitting period before a disallowance on this matter could be debated.

We simply cannot afford to continue to allow these excisions from our conservation reserves to slide, particularly in this part of Perth where we have lost, and we will continue to lose, so much of our bushland and when so much of the vegetation complexes already have less than 10 per cent “safely secured” in conservation reserves. We are effectively talking about death by a thousand cuts. It is a disaster for our bushland and also for our unique biodiversity. I remind members that we are living in a biodiversity hotspot, and that is not a positive thing. We have to do better, especially in the areas that have outstanding environmental commitments that are yet to be met, such as those around Neerabup National Park.


Portfolio Category: 
Parliamentary Type: