LAKE MACQUARIE STATE RECREATION AREA
(Lake Macquarie) [11.10 a.m.]: I move:
That this House congratulates the Government on the establishment of the Lake Macquarie State Recreation Area during its first term of office.
Certainly it was a great day on 22 November 1996 when the Lake Macquarie State Recreation Area was officially declared by the former Minister for the Environment, the Hon. Pam Allan. The Lake Macquarie State Recreation Area consists of six parcels of foreshore bushland around Lake Macquarie. The declaration was very important for
the lake and its surrounding environment, which has been in the spotlight for the last few years. It was important for these parcels of 650 hectares of bushland, covering 16 kilometres or approximately 10 per cent of the Lake Macquarie shoreline, to be protected. It was appropriate for the then Minister, Pam Allan, to make the official declaration because for approximately eight years she had been part of the negotiations to bring this State recreation area to reality.
I pay tribute to two community groups in the Hunter and Lake Macquarie area, one of which is the Northern Parks and Playgrounds Movement. For many years Doug Lithgow and other members of that movement have been aware of the benefits of protecting foreshore bushland around Lake Macquarie. The other group is the United Residents Group for the Environment of Lake Macquarie [URGE]. In 1991 the then Labor Opposition adopted the URGE proposal for a Lake Macquarie foreshore park. URGE spent many years preparing this proposal, and I participated in those endeavours. Many local community groups were brought together to work out a plan to ensure that bushland around the foreshore of Lake Macquarie was protected. I was proud, and I still am, to be a member of the United Residents Group for the Environment of Lake Macquarie.
I congratulate the members of that organisation on their success. I refer particularly to people such as Greg Piper, who is now a councillor of Lake Macquarie City, Leif Lemke, Peter Morris and Jack Shield. Those people and many others have been involved for many years in putting together the State recreation area proposal. In 1991 the then Labor Opposition adopted the proposal for the State election. I brought the proposal to Parliament after I was elected. Unfortunately, Labor did not form a government and I put forward a private members bill based on the URGE plan. After much debate in this Parliament and opposition from the Greiner Government and Fahey Government -
Don’t remind me.
For seven long years the Greiner and Fahey governments opposed protection of the foreshore of Lake Macquarie. I remember that during the debate on the proposal the former Deputy Premier, Mr Murray, referred to a parcel of the land which included some of the former Wangi power station land adjoining Lake Macquarie on the southern side of Wangi near Myuna Bay. It was obvious during the debates that the former Deputy Premier had not done any research because he said that the land had been reserved for a future power station and that I was alienating the land - or at least, that is what he implied. At that stage, the power station was on its last legs and, other than for the presence of a maintenance crew, it had closed. His comments revealed his failure to recognise the importance of the Lake Macquarie environment and its protection. It is history that the previous Government opposed the bill.
I congratulate the Independents who were members of Parliament at that time because they supported the bill and it was passed by the lower House. With their support, numerous amendments were able to be staved off when the previous Government tried to gut the bill. The bill was sent to the upper House, but, unfortunately, Parliament was prorogued before the 1995 election and the bill was unable to proceed. Prior to the 1995 election, Labor again promised the creation of the Lake Macquarie State Recreation Area. A few months after the election, I approached the new Minister for Environment, Pam Allan, and asked how we were going to create the State recreation area. She responded by appointing a National Parks and Wildlife Service officer, Mr Ken Ayres, to work with me during the next 12 months to negotiate with, rather than to force, local governments and government departments to establish the park.
We sat down and discussed the benefits and any problems that the two local councils, Lake Macquarie City Council and Wyong Shire Council, could foresee. We also spoke to various Government departments that were custodians of the land at that time. Both Wyong Shire Council and Lake Macquarie City Council should be congratulated on agreeing, after lengthy consultation, to give up their trusteeship of foreshore land. I particularly thank the Lake Macquarie City Council and its members - including my brother, Councillor Alan Hunter; Councillor Lorre Manning; and Greg Piper - for their support and for agreeing to the National Parks and Wildlife Service taking over control of the Wangi Point area, which was the site of a large caravan park and cabin facility operated by the council.
Part of the agreement concerned the council being able to continue to run that facility under a long-term lease. That was certainly a good outcome for the council and the agreement also provided protection for the land around the lake. While I had been working with Ken Ayres over a period of approximately 18 months we obtained agreement from all the participating groups. Cabinet supported the proposal, culminating in the Minister declaring the park open on 22 November 1996. It was only in January of this year that the final parcel of the
foreshore park was gazetted, which was the Morisset Hospital land. That was only achieved after a great deal of discussion with the Department of Health to ensure that the patients at the Morisset Mental Hospital and also at the Kanangra facility run by the Department of Community Services were fully protected.
The agreement provided for public access if an approach was made to management to obtain access to the various bushland settings which have always been part and parcel of the hospital facility. An additional benefit is that the agreement allows the Health Department to take over ownership of the land on which the hospital is situated whereas previously it was a trustee only of Crown land. I thank the local Aboriginal community for participating in the negotiations. They have been granted a large chunk - approximately 1,000 hectares - of the Morisset Hospital site.
Again, I thank the former Minister, Pam Allan, for agreeing to my request to set up an advisory body comprising a number of community representatives, including members of the Wangi Peninsula Advisory Committee who have been working for many years and who are now being assisted by officers of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Members of the Awaba Bay Landcare Group have done an excellent job in the Awaba Bay portion of the State recreation area between Marmong Point and Bolton Point. In February this year the then Minister for the Environment, Pam Allan, visited the area and announced funding of $158,000 for the second stage of a foreshore walk through that portion of the land.
The honourable member for Wentworthville, Pam Allan, is present in the Chamber. Prior to the 1991 election, over two days, Pam Allan and our former colleague Tony Doyle, shadow minister for planning, visited all the sites proposed for the foreshore park and met all the community group members, who gave ringing endorsement of the proposal. I am sad that Tony is not here to see the project come to fruition. I thank Pam Allan on behalf of all the people of Lake Macquarie who worked for many years to have the foreshore land protected.
(Wentworthville) [11.20 a.m.]: Mr Acting-Speaker, I take this opportunity to congratulate the honourable member for Liverpool, who is in the chair, on his appointment as Acting-Speaker. I have known you for many years and I have never seen you looking more distinguished than at this moment. The important motion moved by my colleague the honourable member for Lake Macquarie has been on the notice paper of this Chamber for about four years. It may seem a little unusual that three or four years since the creation of the Lake Macquarie State Recreation Area we are congratulating the former Government on its declaration. The Lake Macquarie State Recreation Area was one of 179 parks and recreation areas created by the former Government. In many ways it is a microcosm of how parks and State Recreation Areas [SRAs] should be created and what should happen to them after they are created.
As the honourable member for Lake Macquarie has already said, the SRA was created as a result of the commitment by the Government to honour pre-election promises, but it would not have come about without support from a number of groups within the local community as well as local councils and officers of government departments. The honourable member congratulated numerous councils on their energy in promoting the creation of the SRA. He also referred to various community groups such as the Awaba Bay Landcare Group.
I particularly note the efforts of the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the manager of the Lake Macquarie State Recreation Area. It was a great achievement of the Government not just to create all the parks but also to provide the resources to manage them well. As a result of the persistent efforts by the honourable member for Lake Macquarie the National Parks and Wildlife Service has appropriated the resources to ensure that the State recreation area is well managed. Excellent management practices are in place, new walking tracks are being established and there is adequate staffing to service the areas.
As the honourable member also said, other government bodies have played an important role in the creation of the SRA. For example, the Department of Housing waived rights to land at Bolton Point to enable the SRA to be created. The Health Department allowed the Morisset Hospital site to be incorporated in the SRA. I congratulate those departments on their co-operation. I also congratulate local Aboriginal groups that played a role in establishing the SRA. The Lake Macquarie SRA would not have been created without the strong support of the local member. His campaign was supported by the local community. Many environment groups around Lake Macquarie have been active on the issue. There is one thing that I have learned as a Minister and that is that a diligent local member can achieve a great deal. An example is what has happened with the creation of the Lake Macquarie SRA and the adequate resourcing which the Government now provides.
(Wallsend) [11.25 a.m.]: I am very pleased to speak to this motion congratulating the Carr Labor Government on establishing the Lake Macquarie State Recreation Area during its first term. One of the reasons the Labor Government was returned so well and why Labor’s vote in the Hunter region was so strong is that on a series of important local issues such as this the Carr Labor Government kept its promises and delivered to the Labor heartland area, and Lake Macquarie is part of the Labor heartland area. I appreciate what the Carr Labor Government did in its first term in establishing the State Recreation Area [SRA]. A Labor government was needed to get that through. A very determined local member was also needed. I congratulate the honourable member for Lake Macquarie, Jeff Hunter, on his determination to pursue this issue since becoming a member of this Chamber in 1991.
The proposal was under development before Jeff came here and I commend Merv Hunter, the former member for Lake Macquarie, for his efforts in pursuing the issue. A key person was the honourable member for Wentworthville, Pam Allan. When I became a member of Parliament following the death of my predecessor she had just become the shadow minister for the environment. One of my first duties as a new member was visiting with Pam sites proposed for inclusion in the State Recreation Area. I also acknowledge Tony Doyle, former member for Peats and shadow minister for planning, who sadly has passed away, for the part he played in progressing the issue.
The dream of stopping the destruction of the bushland on the foreshores of Lake Macquarie had been alive for more than 50 years. I met some wonderful people who told me of their struggles in the early days to stop bushland being knocked down for residential and industrial purposes. By the 1980s there were not many areas that could be formed into the Lake Macquarie State Recreation Area. I suppose we got there just in time. If the early environmentalists had been able to save more of the bushland there could potentially have been a much bigger park. The honourable member for Lake Macquarie mentioned URGE, the United Residents Group for the Environment of Lake Macquarie - I am proud to have been a member for many years - and the Northern Parks and Playgrounds movement, the much earlier organisation supporting the cause.
When Reid sailed a ship looking for the mouth of the Hunter River in about 1800 he stumbled upon the entry to Lake Macquarie. For quite a few years the district was known as "Reid’s Mistake". In the more than 100 kilometres of Lake Macquarie shoreline outcrops of coal were found, as in the Hunter River. The shoreline was also found to be wooded with excellent timbers and timber getting became a local industry. Reverend Threlkeld is famous for studying and documenting much of the Awabakal Aboriginal language of the area. Many of the early residents hoped to preserve much of that beautiful country but they did not set in place the structures to do so. The dream finally became a reality thanks to the combination of factors that I have mentioned, but particularly because the Carr Labor Government honoured the promises that it gave to the people. Unlike the Greiner and Fahey governments, the Labor Government proceeded to establish the Lake Macquarie State Recreation Area. We did it. Congratulations to the Government.
(Lake Macquarie) [11.30 a.m.], in reply: I thank my colleagues the honourable member for Wentworthville and the honourable member for Wallsend for their support for the motion. For me the creation of the Lake Macquarie State Recreation Area was the realisation of a dream. I had advocated its creation since becoming a member of State Parliament and, prior to that, on behalf of the local environment movement. Its creation was the realisation of a dream I had had for many years. When one looks at past photographs of the Lake Macquarie area, one can see now the amazing amount of development that has gone on in and around the lake.
That is why it was necessary for the Premier to establish a task force last year to look at the environmental problems of Lake Macquarie. It is also the reason the Government has committed in excess of $7 million to the area over three years. Lake Macquarie City Council and Wyong Shire Council will be raising funds and contributing to the rehabilitation of the area. Part of that rehabilitation has been the creation of the Lake Macquarie State Recreation Area. Many areas of the foreshore land were earmarked for development. They will now be protected for future generations and, of course, foreshore bushland will filter out urban residential intrusion into the lake.
I again commend the honourable member for Wentworthville for the creation of the advisory committee. It is chaired by Councillor Greg Piper, who is a passionate advocate for the Lake Macquarie State Recreation Area, and its members include representatives from various community groups around the lake. I again point out that the Lake Macquarie State Recreation Area covers slightly more than 650 hectares, or 16 kilometres, of foreshore land. That is approximately 10 per cent of the Lake Macquarie shoreline. Public use of the area
ranges from highly organised activities at Point Wolstoncroft Sport and Recreation Centre, Morisset Hospital, as I mentioned earlier, and Wangi Point Caravan Park to more passive recreational uses such as bushwalking and picnicking.
I believe that about $200,000 a year is being spent on the ongoing maintenance of facilities, for fire management works and pest control, for the erection of signs and fencing of areas, and for rehabilitation. As I mentioned earlier, the Awaba Bay Landcare group will receive about $158,000 to continue its foreshore walk. The group has already done an excellent job in the Awaba Bay area. Lantana bushes some 13 or 14 feet high have been removed. The National Parks and Wildlife Service has only praise for the group. I mention particularly Tim and Jenni Watkins of the Awaba Bay Landcare group and Robert Hertogs, who originally dreamed of clearing that parcel of land. To everyone involved in the creation of the Lake Macquarie State Recreation Area, particularly the former Minister for the Environment, the Hon. Pam Allan, I say: a job well done.
Motion agreed to.
Pursuant to sessional orders debate interrupted.