Royal National Park Cabins

About this Item
SubjectsNational Parks; National Parks and Wildlife Service
SpeakersJenkins The Hon Jon
BusinessAdjournment, Motion

Page: 12860

    The Hon. JON JENKINS [10.23 p.m.]: There are approximately 220 coastal cabins in the Royal National Park, divided into four communities. From north to south they are Little Garie, Era, Burning Palms and Bulgo. Most cabins were built between 1910 and 1950, either on freehold land with the permission of the then owners, or on Crown reserve land. When development proposals threatened in the mid-1940s the communities forsook the opportunity to purchase the land themselves. For the common good they lobbied, along with groups such as the Confederation of Bushwalking Clubs, to have the freehold land incorporated into the Royal National Park. This selfless act was to guarantee that the public would have access to the huts for future generations. The Royal National Park Cabins Protection League was formed in 1945 to represent the communities and to lobby the government of the day. It is now recognised as one of the oldest community-based conservation groups in New South Wales.

    None of the communities is accessible by road. Cabin owners walk in carrying their food and fuel and, from time to time, materials for maintenance. As well, they take responsibility for carrying out refuse. In fact the National Parks and Wildlife Service has banned the local Landcare group from carrying out any track maintenance. This is a great personal disappointment for me because, being disabled, I will never have the opportunity to visit this area. The cabin communities number hundreds of families across a wide range of backgrounds, with the involvement of some reaching back over five generations. The communities have a strong attachment to the place and to the maintenance of values of self-regulation and self-reliance, low technology and alternative technology living, public service and assistance through the three surf-lifesaving clubs, two of which would not exist without the communities, Landcare and Fireguard, and a precious connection to our forbears.

    After the founding of the National Parks and Wildlife Service in 1967 a policy of cabin removal was introduced. Under this policy between a quarter and a third of the original number of cabins were removed. To counter this, the communities sought heritage listing. The result is that Era and Burning Palms are listed by the National Trust; Era and Little Garie are listed by the Australian Heritage Commission and all communities are listed in the Wollongong Council heritage study. Two independent studies, the 1994 draft cabins conservation plan and the 2001 Brooks draft cabins management plan, emphasise the cultural, social and historic value of the communities. This forced a change of attitude.

    The February 2000 plan of management for the Royal National Park calls for the cabins, and specifically their social fabric, to be retained under strict conditions to be negotiated between the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the communities. Since early 2000 negotiations have been in train between the service and the communities aimed at determining these conditions. However, on Friday 12 November the National Parks and Wildlife Service issued a press release about the cabins, claiming among other things that it was wresting control of the cabins for the public. Of course, this is rubbish. If the service had had its way there would be no cabins left for the public; they would have been pulled down a long time ago. It was National Parks and Wildlife Service policy that excluded the public from having access to the cabins. The conditions of the current licence expressly restricted the use of the shacks to the owners and their immediate families.

    These are heritage structures with technology dating back to the 1930s, such as kerosene fridges and lamps. This infrastructure and technology requires some experience to manage. There are public safety and maintenance issues for any shack that is to be rented to inexperienced people. However, the fundamental issue is whether the National Parks and Wildlife Service is to follow proper procedure. The principles of heritage management are that the responsible authority develops policies for management through a conservation management plan. The National Parks and Wildlife Service draft cabin management plan of 2001 has not been endorsed by the New South Wales Heritage Office and requires 12 recommendations to be met before it will be resubmitted.

    The cabin communities welcome a better deal for the public. However, contrary to the weekend announcement, at this stage the systems and policies are not yet in place. Simultaneously with the press release the service delivered a new licence to the communities, with four alternatives, none of which is acceptable. For any current owner to take out a new licence or nominate another person, such as their children, to take out a licence, they must relinquish ownership of the cabins to the Minister. The Minister threatened to remove any shack where the owner does not accept one of the options, by saying:

    Please note, that should you choose not to sign a new licence or accept one of the alternative options outlined above, following the termination of your current licence, I propose to cause the cabin on the cabin site specified above to be removed in accordance with the provisions of s160A-s160F of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974. You will be given an opportunity to make a submission in this regard which will be considered before a decision is made on whether to adopt this course of action.

    This threat of demolition is contrary to the Royal National Park plan of management, to New South Wales Heritage Office recommendations and to the borough charter. In proceeding as it has, the National Parks and Wildlife Service appears to be ignoring advice given to it by the Independent Commission Against Corruption expressly to strengthen its resistance to corruption, and also ignoring the advice of the Heritage Office. I add finally that this new scheme by the National Parks and Wildlife Service continues with the pantheistic agenda to remove all cultural connection to any National Parks and Wildlife Service estate. It is a part of the ethnic cleansing ideology that is applied not only to those of European descent but also to indigenous peoples. The desired end is to remove all connection of people with the land and therefore to remove all reason for people visit.

    I call on the Minister to withdraw the threat of demolition of the shacks; to ensure that the conservation management plan for the cabin areas is finalised, taking into account the recommendations of the New South Wales Heritage Office and the advice of ICAC; and that the conservation management plan is finalised with shack holders having six months to review the plan prior to having to sign any document, in line with the commitment given by the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the New South Wales Ombudsman. [Time expired.]

    Motion agreed to.
    The House adjourned at 10.28 p.m. until Wednesday 17 November 2004 at 11.00 a.m.