HELENSBURGH LAND USE COMMISSION OF INQUIRY
Matter of Public Importance
Mr McMANUS (Bulli) [3.38]: I move:
Since 1988, first as the member for Heathcote, then as the member for Burragorang, and currently as the member for Bulli, I have been continually frustrated by Government inaction in zoning lands in the Helensburgh area. I believe it is time the Government took decisive action in that regard. The totally unnecessary commission of inquiry into land use around Helensburgh commenced its hearings on 20 July, after a delay in proceedings of nearly three weeks. That inquiry received an unprecedented amount of evidence from all parties and finally closed precisely 19 weeks later on 15 November. The inquiry began in controversy, with prospective parties to the inquiry announcing that they were subject to civil litigation proceedings by one of the key property developers. Local Helensburgh residents believed they were being disadvantaged and were afraid to present their cases to the inquiry. The real fear residents experience arises from their attempts to do their duty by speaking out in defence of Australia's oldest park.
Those brave citizens worked to defend the Royal National Park from the despoiling effects of adjoining urban development. Their reward for their public service has been civil litigation, not for defamation but for conspiring to damage the interests of developers and a developer's company. What a farce! From that dismal beginning the inquiry travelled through endless submissions by developers and developers' consultants introducing a redesign of the urban development on the headwaters of the Hacking River. Yet, despite spending over $1 million, the developers failed to prove their case that urban expansion will not cause significant environmental degradation. Decisive evidence against the developers came from three impartial and authoritative Government departments - the Department of Water Resources, the Environment Protection Authority and the National Parks and Wildlife Service. None of those departments was persuaded that the development would protect water quality and avoid damaging the flora and fauna of Australia's most visited national park. The Helensburgh commission of inquiry was a waste of time.
Mr Hartcher: Kosciusko is the most visited park. The honourable member cannot get his facts right.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the Minister for the Environment to order.
Mr McMANUS: It will be interesting when the people of the Illawarra and Australia find that the Minister wants to interject during debate on such an important issue. It would hard to find anywhere in New South Wales a place more unsuitable than Helensburgh for urban expansion because of its steep terrain and its proximity to the Royal National Park, the Hacking River, the Port Hacking estuary and the green belt which stands between the Sydney sprawl and Wollongong.
The Minister for Planning pandered to the demands of those who wanted an inquiry: a handful of ruthless developers. He chose to ignore the honest efforts of the Wollongong City Council and the Sutherland Shire Council to declare an environmental protection zone in key non-urban areas around Helensburgh. He has allowed uncertainty to block council's decisive action to enforce stronger environmental protection measures for the Hacking River catchment. He has wasted taxpayers' money that would have been better spent remediating stormwater run-off problems in the existing urban areas in the headwaters of the Hacking River. The Government should support Sutherland and Wollongong councils by providing funds with the assistance of the Environment Protection Authority to implement a staged enforcement program to remove all illegal land users who are polluting the catchment headwaters of Australia's oldest national park. The Government should fund stormwater controls and regenerate the disturbed land.
Feral animals, including pigs, still run around Lilyvale near Camp Creek on unfenced rainforest land adjoining the national park. Horse riding establishments holding hundreds of horses are operating like equestrian feedlots without any pollution control. Parts of the Stanwell Tops village and the village of Otford remain unsewered. Many dwellings discharge sewage illegally instead of using the approved pump-out system. The total catchment philosophy must be applied to this catchment If it is not, the diverse wildlife population of the Royal National Park will decline until the park becomes just another piece of degraded bushland surrounded by housing. The National Parks and Wildlife Service considers the Royal National Park to have a diversity of wildlife communities and land systems that are unique in New South Wales for an area the size of the park.
If significant urban development proceeds at Helensburgh, it is predicted that fauna species will be lost from the park, common fauna species will become rare in the catchment, rainforest will be degraded by weeds and fire, the Hacking River will become a weed-infested ditch, Audley will be unusable for recreation, and the National Parks and Wildlife Service will have to spend more of its limited funds in an attempt to repair this avoidable damage. The $85,000 expended by Wollongong and Sutherland councils on consultants and barristers would have been better spent on resolving the existing problems in the estuaries surrounding the national park. The staff of Wollongong City Council have spent more than 1,000 hours at a cost of $35,000. I am advised that Sutherland council has committed a similar amount of resources. That has had a serious impact on the workload of both councils, to the extent that the work of their planning departments is as much as four months in arrears.
One can only speculate on the number of trees that have been cut down to supply the tonnes of paper used in this futile and wasteful experience. The inquiry was surrounded by emotive and misleading statements by the pro-development lobby. The community was given false expectations. Promises of high schools, hospitals, specialists services, and better shopping facilities were high on the agenda. These expectations have always been extinguished by government departments and dismissed by intelligent residents of the community. Twice during the inquiry both Sutherland and Wollongong councils were so frustrated that they almost lodged a formal complaint against the commissioner, Mr Carleton, who was advised verbally of their concerns. His failure to compile a proper timetable and a list of those required to appear was a contentious issue for the councils.
The councils were also concerned about the commissioner altering the dates and times that had been set for the appearance of witnesses. That created for the councils and other parties many thousands of dollars of unnecessary expense in relation to the appearance of consultants and legal representatives who were not required. On two occasions one witness paid for his consultant to fly to Australia from New Zealand, only to be frustrated by changes to the timetable. I am advised that on the second occasion the developer alleged that the independent consultants hired by the councils were
given instructions to provide a biased report. The commissioner appeared to agree with that allegation. After Mr Carleton was advised that this allegation was strongly refuted and that a Queens Counsel was being briefed to challenge the claim, the developer withdrew the claim and accepted councils' integrity. The community has suffered inconvenience, stress and hardship for many years because of this issue. The unnecessary imposition by the Minister of an inquiry has caused the councils, the community, and ratepayers considerable pain, stress and financial loss. I place on record my gratitude to the Mayor of Sutherland, Genevieve Rankin, to Councillor Paul Smith, to the Lord Mayor of Wollongong, Councillor David Campbell, and to Councillor Bill Barnetson, who have been vocal in their opposition to this disastrous plan.
Not one Liberal Party member of Sutherland council has disagreed with the views of those councillors. It is time members representing the electorates in the relevant area - the honourable member for Cronulla; the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Racing, the honourable member for Sutherland; and the Minister for Health, the honourable member for Miranda - supported Wollongong City Council, as they indicated they would many years ago.
I call on the Government to support the moves by Sutherland and Wollongong councils to restore and protect the Hacking River catchment and, most importantly, to rezone the land around Helensburgh for environmental protection, as recommended by the Wollongong City Council. The Minister has overruled that recommendation, but has clearly indicated at the same time that the final decision rests with the council. Nothing will change except the amount expended by the councils. The same deliberations will have to be made by the same people many months down the track.
Mr HARTCHER (Gosford - Minister for the Environment) [3.46]: The Australian Labor Party has been monstrously hypocritical in relation the third runway. Having been responsible for the decision to build the runway, it is now attacking it. The Opposition is equally hypocritical in relation to Helensburgh. Having been responsible for placing Helensburgh on the urban development program in 1985, the Opposition now seeks to gain political advantage from that decision. Who was the Minister responsible for placing Helensburgh on the urban development program? None other than Bob Carr, the then Minister for Planning and Environment. Although Bob Carr was hypocritical in relation to this issue, the honourable member for Bulli would have to get the award for the most monstrous hypocrite in this place. An article in the Wollongong Advertiser of 17 February 1982 reported:
That this House notes as a matter of public importance the need to zone for environmental protection lands at Helensburgh adjoining the Royal National Park and within the Hacking River Catchment vital to the continuing integrity of this area of State heritage significance.
Ald. Ian McManus believes the area is "just screaming our for development.
The article also reported that he would lead a deputation to the environment and planning Minister to discuss the town's development. The article continued:
"We just want the facilities that other towns have", he said.
This is the man who wanted Helensburgh developed, who got his little mate, Bob Carr, to put Helensburgh on the urban development program, and who now seeks to remove Helensburgh from development.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Penrith to order.
Mr HARTCHER: What monstrous hypocrisy! There is much hypocrisy in this place, but that behaviour would have to be the ultimate! What did Joseph Glascott, the environment writer for the Sydney Morning Herald, say about this issue? He said:
Ald. McManus said State Government departments had spent millions developing Menai and Campbelltown and yet was reluctant to do the same thing in Helensburgh.
that is, the Total Environment Centre -
A spokesman for the society -
the then local member -
Mr Jim Donohoe, said the local Labor Party branch and Wollongong Council were in disrepute because of the autocratic way in which Mr Jackson -
According to Joseph Glascott, Rex Jackson and Ian McManus were pushing the huge development plan. What monstrous hypocrisy! Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive! The honourable member for Bulli has been caught out by his monstrous lies.
Mr McManus: That was 12 years ago.
Mr HARTCHER: Yes, the honourable member has had a conversion on the road to Damascus. The so-called honourable member is seeking to aid and abet the campaigns of Genevieve Rankin and Paul Smith, two of the weakest and most hopeless candidates one could ever find. That really says something for the Labor Party. So far members of the Labor Party have got their mates on Sutherland Council to spend about $60,000 on leaflets attacking this Helensburgh proposal. They are using $60,000 of ratepayers' money for their own purposes. The honourable member for Bulli thinks that it is witty and clever that the ALP is using Sutherland council for this purpose. What chance would anyone have with a member like the honourable member for Bulli, who promotes a program and, when it suits his purposes, he denigrates that program? This Government has made it clear that it will protect the Royal National Park and the catchment areas involved. Accordingly, the Government has decided to investigate the validity of any development claims in the Helensburgh area. Nothing like that was ever done while the honourable member for Bulli was pushing this issue.
The Government, through the Minister for Planning, has established a commission of inquiry, chaired by Dr Carleton, to inquire into the future of the Royal National Park. This was done because Wollongong council, after considering the draft local environmental plan, decided to rezone certain lands
from non-urban land to environmentally protected land. This inquiry is not about urban development; it is about managing the consequences of any land-use planning and development decisions on the environment, in particular the Hacking River and its tributaries and the Royal National Park and associated habitat corridors. I welcome the support that I have received from the honourable member for Cronulla, the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Racing and the Minister for Health. I have received nothing from the honourable member for Bulli. The honourable member for Bulli, who introduced this matter of public importance, has said nothing to me and has never raised this matter in this House. The honourable member for Bulli is in an activity-free zone.
Mr McManus: On a point of order: the Minister for the Environment has just said that I have never raised this matter in the House. The record will show that I have.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No point of order is involved.
Mr HARTCHER: The honourable member for Bulli is in an activity-free zone and his party is in a policy-free zone. But the honourable member for Bulli is certainly not in an hypocrisy-free zone. The Government believes that land-use planning is best dealt with at a local level by appropriate councils. Since this Government came to office it has made a commitment not to interfere grossly with the prerogatives of local government for land-use planning, which commitment is well respected by local government. Nonetheless, where important environmental considerations are involved, the Government will establish appropriate commissions of inquiry to ensure that the environment is properly looked at and all aspects are properly evaluated.
As a result of representations to the Minister for Planning by the honourable member for Cronulla, the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Racing and the Minister for Health, this inquiry was established. As a result of the strong stand of those honourable members the Government will ensure that, no matter what, the Royal National Park and the Hacking River and its tributaries are properly and fully protected. The report, which has been under investigation by the commission of inquiry, is soon to go to the Minister for Planning. The Minister has given undertakings that he will refer the commissioner's report to council. He has also given an undertaking that he will not rezone land at Helensburgh against council's wishes. Wollongong council has only to pass a motion saying that it does not want it, once it has seen the report and the Minister has given the Parliament an undertaking.
Mr McManus: They have done that.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Bulli will have the opportunity to reply.
Mr HARTCHER: The Department of Planning and the National Parks and Wildlife Service made submissions to the inquiry. The Government has made it crystal clear that it will protect, as it always has, the Royal National Park and the Hacking River. The Australian Labor Party, through the then Minister for the Environment, Ros Kelly, pledged financial assistance to rehabilitate that park after the January bushfires. The present Federal Minister, Senator Faulkner, reneged on that promise. The Labor Party has done nothing for the Royal National Park. It has done nothing to rehabilitate that park. It has given it no support. The honourable member for Bulli never asks me how the rehabilitation is going; he shows no interest at all. He never comes to me and asks, "What is happening with the Royal National Park?" He does not care less. When I inspect the Royal National Park the honourable member for Bulli never turns up. He never shows the slightest bit of interest. He is in a policy-free zone and an activity-free zone. He is the greatest hypocrite this House has ever seen.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Bulli to order. I call the honourable member for Blacktown to order.
Mr HARTCHER: A report in the Sydney Morning Herald states -
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Bulli to order for the second time. I call the honourable member for Blacktown to order for the second time.
Mr HARTCHER: The newspaper report is entitled "Shadow over Heathcote".
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Blacktown to order for the third time.
Mr HARTCHER: The article states:
and the president of the Australian Labor Party branch, Mr Ian McManus, promoted the huge development plan.
The honourable member for Bulli followed the footsteps of his good mate Rex Jackson, his campaign manager, into Parliament. Members of the Labor Party used to call Rex Jackson "Honest Rex". They would say, "Honest Rex will look after that". There was a bit of development here and a bit of development there and few prisoners here and a few prisoners there. Honest Rex came to the party. Honest Rex was going to come to the Helensburgh party too because he and his branch president, Ian McManus, were promoting what Joseph Glascott called "the huge development plan". But there is more. There is always more when the honourable member for Bulli is involved. On 30 August, in that excellent newspaper the Illawarra Mercury, the Australian Labor Party was accused of pulling a swifty on developers. Alderman Tobin said, "ALP candidate Mr Ian McManus said he favoured the development - [Time expired.]
Ms ALLAN (Blacktown) [3.56]: History will record the Fahey Government's attempts to permit the development of environmentally sensitive land at Helensburgh as one of the last dying acts of a desperate government. When urban planners document the great planning mistakes of Sydney, this deal, an attempt by the State Government to override the views of two local councils and thousands of local residents, will be seen for what it is - a shabby and shonky deal more akin to the infamous National Party north coast land deals than any attempt at rational and proper urban planning.
During the life of the Helensburgh land zoning scandal the Department of Planning released two important documents. The first was the "Metropolitan Strategy for the Sydney Region Update", more commonly known as "Sydney Into its Third Century", and the second was the more recent discussion paper on planning the great metropolitan region entitled "Sydney's Future". It is important to realise that both documents form the blueprint for Sydney's population growth and the location of its people. In neither document do we find Helensburgh land listed as being suitable for urban development. Neither document states that Helensburgh land is suitable for housing. The documents do not identify any option for the land other than the need to conserve this valuable area to protect the Royal National Park, the Hacking River and important stands of flora and fauna habitat.
In recognition of the historic planning framework for this area Wollongong City Council and Sutherland Shire Council have endorsed the conservation principles and called on the Minister for Planning, and Minister for Housing to agree on the establishment of an environmental protection zone. Their decision was not made lightly; it came after a great deal of public consultation as well as technical and community input. What did the Minister for Planning, backed up by his little mate the Minister for the Environment, do? Instead of supporting his own department's studies, his own metropolitan strategy for Sydney - which involved years of analysis and research - he put on his white shoes and his dark sunglasses and did what only a National Party Minister would do: he backed the developers.
The Minister's announcement of a commission of inquiry into the zoning of land at Helensburgh is little more than a lifeline thrown to developers to let them stay in the game. The Minister knows that the commission of inquiry is a waste of taxpayer's money and a waste of time. No doubt the Minister for Planning has decided to adopt the old axiom, "In for a penny, in for a pound". After all, what does the Minister have to lose? It is well known that the major developer, the Walker Corporation, made a $30,000 donation to the Government during the 1991 State election campaign. So what is a few more thousand dollars between friends, particularly when it is taxpayers' money? Why not have a commission of inquiry? Why should members of the Government not look after their mates? Members of the Opposition and Sutherland and Wollongong councils do not want the north coast of New South Wales visited on this part of metropolitan Sydney.
Despite the Helensburgh land being in the city of Wollongong, it is more commonly regarded as being part of Sydney's urban fringe. In that context, a decision to make the Helensburgh land available for residential development must be considered as part of Sydney's urban planning strategies. It is fair to say that Sutherland Shire Council, the boundaries of which abut the land, is already doing its fair share in accommodating Sydney's population growth. At present the shire has a population of approximately 195,000, which is expected to grow to 220,000 by the year 2002. The Sutherland shire housing strategy produced in May makes it clear that an additional 25,000 people can be sensibly and logically accommodated within existing urban areas and identified release areas without the need to rezone any of the land at Helensburgh.
When increased housing opportunities in and around commercial centres and railway stations within the Sutherland shire are added to that proposal it becomes clear that the additional burden of broad acre rezoning at Helensburgh is unnecessary and will inevitably overtax the infrastructure and services of the entire region. Good government and planning for Sydney should not be about selling out to the highest bidder. The commission of inquiry into the land at Helensburgh should stop now. The land should be rezoned for environmental protection. That is the view of more than 7,000 Sutherland shire residents who have signed letters of protest about the issue. Sadly, the Minister for Planning, the Premier and the Minister for the Environment are now snubbing the local community. The Premier is even refusing to meet Sutherland Shire Council and its president, Councillor Genevieve Rankin, to talk about the problem. He is trying to buy time for members of Parliament such as the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Racing and the honourable member for Cronulla - [Time expired.]
Mr McMANUS (Bulli) [4.01], in reply: I wish to speak to some of the comments made by the Minister for the Environment and the scurrilous allegations he made regarding my involvement in this issue. It is interesting that the Minister had to go back to 1982 to find articles from a local newspaper that indicated my support for Helensburgh development. I have never said that I am anti-development in Helensburgh. In fact, in 1986, when I first ran for government, I said that I had every intention to support development in Helensburgh within the confines of the town. I screamed and shouted in this House to former Minister for Housing Schipp that there was a need for the Landcom development around Cemetery Road, Helensburgh. That development proceeded, and I am quite please with it. But the Government botched the whole thing.
The Government and the developers in Helensburgh had the opportunity to prove that a drainage system could work. The system has not worked. The development has gone ahead and the Government has botched it. If the Government cannot control a development the size of that Landcom development, which comprises 70 or 80 blocks in the centre of Helensburgh - where sewerage facilities are available - how can the community expect it to control a sizeable development outside those zones and abutting the Royal National Park? The situation is ridiculous. The Government is trying to get out from under by claiming that it was all my fault back in 1982.
I am on the record as having continually argued with Rex Jackson, a former member of this House, about his deliberations to try to get water from the Cataract Dam to Helensburgh. I was always suspicious of the intention to put in heavy
development in the Helensburgh region. It is not true to say that I supported Mr Jackson on development at any stage. Helensburgh has been split asunder. Residents who have been friends for most of their lives no longer talk to each other. It is the Government's inaction over almost 10 years that has created that situation. It is time that my colleagues in the suburbs north of Helensburgh - the Minister for Health, who is the member for Miranda; the honourable member for Cronulla; and the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Racing, who is the member for Sutherland - started to take some interest. If they do not show an interest in the issue, and if the development is approved on the recommendation of Mr Carlton, two things will happen.
I certainly will not be remembered as the member of Parliament who destroyed the Royal National Park. Honourable members must realise a possible outcome of this development. If the development is approved in any way, that will be on the heads of the Minister for the Environment; the honourable member for Cronulla, who is in the Chamber; the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Racing; and the Minister for Health. They have made no move to support the environment movement, the Labor Party in the protection of the national park, the townships of Heathcote and Bundeena and all those who live in communities that will be deleteriously affected by the development. It is time for those Ministers and the honourable member for Cronulla to stand up and be counted. There is an election just around the corner, and they have the opportunity to do something.
The Sutherland Shire Council has adopted an apolitical position. Not one Independent, Labor Party or Liberal Party councillor on that council has at any time disagreed with the stand of the Labor Party on this issue. I have taken the same stand as one of the areas local members. I am prepared to work with my three colleagues in convincing the Premier that the development must not go ahead. This is a complete farce. The Wollongong City Council made its determination two years ago. It was overturned, however, by a ridiculous Minister in another place. When all is said and done, Wollongong City Council is to rehash the same issue and will again come up with the same proposals. It is time the rezoning was carried out. The Government should bite the bullet in regard to this matter.
Motion agreed to.
. . . the president of the ALP branch Mr Ian McManus, promoted the huge development plan.