Second Reading

Resumed from an earlier stage of the sitting.

Comments and speeches from various members

HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [5.30 pm]: I rise to speak on the Reserves (Marmion Marine Park) Bill 2019, which of course is one of the steps towards creating the Ocean Reef marina. I have spoken about this issue on quite a number of occasions since I took my seat in this place as the member for North Metropolitan Region. A number of issues that will arise from the establishment of this particular marina will have significant impacts on the environment, as has just been stated. I recognise that the proposal to establish the marina is a very popular one with residents within my electorate for a whole range of reasons, which is why it became a bit of a bidding war at the last state election between the Liberal–National coalition and the Labor Party about who could build it first and who could spend the most money on it. It has been anticipated by the local community, but it is important that we recognise that it will not be without significant environmental cost, and that is of concern to me and the Greens.

The bill is fairly small. The purpose of it is simply to excise just over 143 hectares of Marmion Marine Park. That is obviously to enable the development of the Ocean Reef marina, which is intended to include 565 boat pens, although I note that environmental approval has been granted for up to 700 boat pens; 200 boat stackers; 1 000 new homes and 12 000 square metres of retail space. It certainly has been touted as an opportunity for people living within my electorate, particularly in the northern part of my electorate, to have some sort of commercial benefit. However, the bill does not address a whole range of other issues. It addresses only the requirements to allow the waterside element of the proposed marine development in a class A reserve, and I want members to be mindful of that. The bill does not address the landside elements, noting that the land part has concurrently gone through a negotiated planning outcome process. That had to be done because it is a Bush Forever site.

The proposed marina has quite a long history. Marmion Marine Park was approved in 1984 and formally established in 1987. It was Western Australia’s first marine park. It covers about 10 500 hectares from Trigg Island to Burns Beach and out past the edge of Three Mile Reef, Marmion Reef and Centaur Reef. The idea of expanding Ocean Reef Boat Harbour has also been around for about 30 years. As I said, the development has wide community support, particularly in the beachside northern suburbs, but there are enormous environmental concerns, just as there were when developing the Mindarie marina and Hillarys Boat Harbour. Hillarys Boat Harbour has 475 public berths and 260 berths for Hillarys Yacht Club, so there will be roughly the same amount of boat storage. At the time that Hillarys Boat Harbour, which was then Sorrento Quay, was built, the Department of Transport believed that the cost of the Ocean Reef marina development would be up to 80 per cent more than the cost of Hillarys Boat Harbour. It was recognised that a much larger breakwater would be needed, and that meant that more stone and harder armour rock would be required. It was considered that it would be less safe for smaller boats. It was recognised at the time that the ecological impacts would be far worse than those that occurred at Hillarys.

This bill is before us now simply because the ecological impacts of building a marina development are effectively inimical to the purpose of a class A reserve. Rather than proposing an alternative location for the marina, it has been proposed to change the boundaries of the marine park. Broadly, this is one of the biggest issues that the Greens have with the way that our conservation systems are managed. Far too often, high-value conservation areas are treated as though they are land banks. Rather than enhancing the environmental values, we tend to simply wait for a better economic opportunity to arise. I am really concerned—I have been saying this for a decade—that we are seeing a death-by-a-thousand-cuts approach to many of Perth’s precious places, and I do not see any end in sight to that approach while we continue to push the city’s footprint, particularly outwards, and continue to encroach on those areas that we have apparently attempted to ring-fence as precious and worthy of ecological protection.

The construction site will require the destruction of a substantial amount of the inshore reef of Marmion Marine Park. The professional Abalone Industry Association of WA, which I have met with and on whose behalf I asked a number of questions early on in my term, estimates that approximately 18 per cent will be destroyed. It has some pretty grave concerns about the impact on the productive reef to the north of the marina. The landside elements will also require the destruction of almost 17 hectares of Bush Forever site 325, and I will talk about that a little more in a moment.

One of the great concerns about the marina development that has already been touched on is the impact on abalone stocks in the area. The marina construction will take place on part of the three-and-a-half-kilometre reef that currently comprises about 40 per cent of the metropolitan abalone stocks. The expectation of the marina’s impact on this reef will be that 5.8 hectares will be directly impacted, and that is the reef under the marina breakwater, and that 6.6 hectares will be indirectly impacted, and that is the reef up to 70 metres north of the development footprint. These figures are deemed to be suspect by abalone fishers. They have explained this to me in detail, but their experience of previous marina and harbour builds along this coast is that there has been a much more substantial impact on local abalone stocks. We need to listen to what they are saying and we need to be mindful of their experience of what happened with the development of the other marinas. Their historical perspective includes the complete collapse of abalone stocks along the 700 metres of reef to the north of the Two Rocks marina. This area now has some recreational fishing, but there is no longer any commercial fishing around that area. The pre and post-build experience of commercial fishers is that there was a drop in abalone catch of significant magnitude when Ocean Reef Boat Harbour was built.

The abalone fishers also saw a far greater impact on the reef to the north of Mindarie Keys than was anticipated in the environmental impact assessment for that project. The degree of the drop was not fully anticipated. The anticipated impact was for about 200 metres of the one-kilometre reef, but the impact experienced by the abalone fishers was that the entire kilometre of reef became no longer sustainable for commercial fishing. We should be very concerned about that. This on-the-ground experience is not reflected in the overall numbers collected by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development. It is largely due to the differences in scale. The abalone fishers are discussing individual reefs, now, by the tens of metres, but the fisheries data is kept at a much larger scale, and this reef is part of a much larger northern part of area 7 that runs from Cape Bouvard all the way to the Moore River mouth. The mismatch in scale means that the Greens’ concerns remain very high about the impact on this specific reef. This reef is important to both recreational and commercial abalone fishers in the metropolitan area. I note that the Minister for Environment has recognised the genuine concerns about the uncertainty of the impacts of this development on abalone stock. The environmental conditions of approval include substantial requirements for abalone research, and there will be an abalone monitoring and translocation plan. We are yet to see how successful that will be. I hope it goes really well, but these things can be precarious, so we do not know. There will be a ban on a number of activities during abalone spawning season, and also a requirement to implement a mitigation plan immediately should impacts end up being larger than expected.

I have to say that the briefing for this bill was attended by a cast of thousands. I cannot complain that anyone who should have been there was not there. There seemed to be many people there.

Hon Stephen Dawson: Notwithstanding that this is a small bill, we wanted to make sure all your questions were answered.

Hon ALISON XAMON: Minister, I have no complaints about the number of people who turned up. My office has never been so full. I appreciate that; I am not merely being flippant about it. I recognise that people are trying to take this issue seriously. I note that, in the briefing for the bill, the fisheries staff who attended spoke of a number of planned activities that they hope will benefit the abalone population. I want to make clear my respect for the fisheries staff; I recognise that some really committed people work in fisheries. When I am raising these concerns, I certainly do not wish to cast aspersions on the good people working in fisheries. I note some of the things that have been proposed, including the translocation studies, starting this summer, to move abalone from the reef that is about to be destroyed to other locations, and also the building of the artificial reefs in deeper water, where it is intended to introduce abalone spawn. I really hope that these projects prove to be successful, and I encourage the government to continue funding these sorts of adaptation measures. The reality is that this is going to go ahead regardless of the Greens’ position, so at the very least I want to see that all the adaptation measures being proposed are as successful as possible. As I say, I have faith in the competence of the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development. I hope it gets the funding it needs, but ultimately I hope it all works, because it is not entirely within the control of the fisheries officers.

Another very great concern is one that I have raised countless times in this place—and guess what, members, I am going to continue to do it—that once again we are destroying part of a Bush Forever site. It is extremely frustrating that “bush forever for now”, as I refer to it, seems to be the best level of protection that we can provide. Bush Forever was meant to be positive and forever, but, unfortunately, we have seen throughout the metropolitan area that it keeps getting diminished. It is especially concerning in the context that so much of this coastal strip of Bush Forever sites is under threat already, as I have already spoken about in this place, from coastal erosion over the next few decades. The area that will be cleared was going to be one of the few spots along the coastline that is unlikely to be threatened by coastal erosion processes. That is incredibly disappointing. We are already looking at losing enough of it to coastal erosion, but then we have this one patch that we are going to be cutting into anyway. The current estimate I have of the required clearing for the project, as I said, is 16.79 hectares. The estimates of required clearing have been steadily reduced as the project comes closer to reality, which I am pleased about, because the smaller we can make the footprint of that destruction, the better. I would obviously prefer zero, but if that is not going to happen, try to make it as small as possible.

The negotiated planning outcome includes the offset purchase of lot 51 Walding Road, which is a 53-hectare site in Carabooda. The plan is for this lot, which is adjacent to Yanchep National Park, to be managed to the requirements of the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions before being formally added to Yanchep National Park. The lot is also likely to be used as part of the offsets for Metronet rail development through the Ningana bushland, which I have also spoken about previously in this place. The draft negotiated planning outcome for Ocean Reef Marina made provision for $100 000 to be allocated for the ongoing management and maintenance of this site. I look forward to receiving confirmation that this funding will be going ahead. It is absolutely clear that this site should be added to the national park, but I do not think it should be necessary to lose some of the Bush Forever site to make this happen. In relation to the issue of offsets, we know from long experience that offsets provide, ultimately, a net loss to the environment. This is particularly true for Bush Forever site 325, which consists of a long strip of bushland that goes all the way from Whitfords Nodes, on the north side of Hillarys Boat Harbour, up to Burns Beach. Again, as I have already said in this place, the coastal erosion risk maps created by the City of Joondalup show that the dunes that do not have any rocky cliff protection are highly likely to be severely impacted by coastal erosion, particularly as our climate changes and our sea level rises. In that environment, 16.79 hectares is actually not a small amount of loss. It is not a small amount to begin with, but when combined with foreseeable losses to this unique metropolitan bushland from coastal erosion, a substantially larger offset would, I think, not be out of line. I do not think it would go astray, and I would love it if the government could consider that.

While I am speaking about the impacts of climate change, I note that the briefing team told us that they are planning for a 90-centimetre rise in sea levels, because the science tells us that sea levels are rising, which is clearly why they are working on that basis. Coastal Risk Australia is estimating that, under a high inundation scenario, the average sea level rise around Australia by 2100 will be 74 centimetres. I am once again going to use this opportunity to highlight the urgency of our need to address climate change. If I can channel Hon Tim Clifford, I look forward to seeing you all at the climate strike on Friday. I will be there, so members can come and hang with me!

I have previously spoken in this place about the need for the design of the Ocean Reef marina development to be as environmentally sensitive as possible. I note that I am not alone in this. This is reflected in the request by the City of Joondalup to LandCorp that the highest possible environmental design be used. This is something the council wants, I want and a significant portion of the community wants as well. I was happy to hear in August last year that LandCorp had secured the services of a sustainability consultant to support the project team. I think that is the bare minimum that is appropriate, given that we are sacrificing a significant portion of the inshore reef environment of Western Australia’s first marine park and also a substantial portion of one of our treasured Bush Forever sites. The very least we can do is ensure that these losses are minimised and mitigated. We should do everything we can to ensure that this environmental loss is at least respected with the best possible design. It is also essential that this development reflects the lessons that we have hopefully learnt from both the Hillarys Boat Harbour and Mindarie marina. I note one of the recommendations from a Committee for Perth report was —

Projects which are proposed to be developed in sensitive locations such as on the coast or river should provide a wide range of activities and be accessible to a very broad demographic.

The report said that the key to success was a —

... mix of facilities, services and uses which appeal to a wide range of users and incorporate activities which can be enjoyed for free. Projects which are considered to be elitist or available to only a small proportion of the population are unlikely to be judged positively by the wider public in the short or longer term.

If this is going ahead and if we are going to sacrifice this most precious environment—I wish we were not—at the very least it is important that we make sure that the maximum number of people are able to utilise and enjoy this area. I know that that is the expectation of people who live in the north metropolitan area. They certainly would not be prepared to contemplate this if it were simply going to be a place for rich people to keep their boats. I know people are hoping and anticipating that this facility will be widely used. Members should make no mistake: by going ahead with this marina and by passing this bill, we are making a huge environmental sacrifice for this project. Regardless of how locally popular I recognise this project is, we are, through this, turning away from decades of planning decisions that recognised that this land, in this location, and this sea area are special and deserve our highest level of protection. This is what we have previously identified. Even if Bush Forever, as the highest level of protection, is unfortunately not really much protection at all, we had at least recognised that this was something that we needed to do.

We are still not fully accounting for the ways in which climate change will impact on our coastlines and lifestyles— we know we are not. The work is not being done to the degree that it needs to be done to deal with the seriousness of it. In this context, only the best environmentally sensitive design is going to be even remotely acceptable for this marina to go ahead. The environment minister must ensure that the project is monitored, that the standards that are applied are stringently adhered to, and that impacts on things like the fisheries will be monitored very, very closely. We need to be careful that the impacts of climate change on the coastline are fully accounted for.

I am going to encourage this government and the minister to look at additional offsets for the loss of the Bush Forever site. Like I said, I would prefer not to go down the offset path, but if this development is going to happen, can we have even more offsets, please? All the offsets! The Minister for Planning ultimately has to ensure that whatever the final project looks like, it is fully capable of engaging the broadest part of the community. I am very disappointed that we are damaging so much of what has been previously recognised as quality environmental systems, but if this is going to go ahead, as the numbers in the house indicate it well and truly will, let us try to ensure that it is at least something that everyone can take advantage of, and let us see whether we can maximise a number of other environmental options.

Comments and speeches from various members

Debate adjourned, pursuant to standing orders.


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