I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Environment and Conservation a question about Morialta Park.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: In relation to the areas that were raised in parliament yesterday, I am in possession of some correspondence going back to 1999 in which the then department for environment, heritage and aboriginal affairs wrote to a person representing the owner of that land saying:
. . . this department is still interested in the purchasing portion of the land.Would you therefore please advise me if your client would consider selling the land required and if so the amount required.
In 2002 there was correspondence again between the government and the subsequent owners of the land but an agreed price could not be reached.
The Hon. Sandra Kanck quoted yesterday from The Advertiser dated 19 June, where it was reported that Dr Haegi of DEH stated that the government would not purchase this land. In fact, the words used in the article were that there was ‘no intention’. I am also in possession of correspondence (some 10 months ago) from Charles Parletta of L.J. Hooker at Glynde to the department in which the offer is made seeking some negotiation before the property is put on the open market. My questions for the minister are:
1. Why has the government not even replied to Mr Parletta’s letter of some 10 months ago?
2. Is the government ruling out any consideration of negotiation for this piece of land even for the purpose of ensuring continued public access to the pathway along Fourth Creek?
The Hon. G.E. GAGO(Minister for Environment and Conservation): It is sad that I stand up here, day in and day out, and answer the same old questions. I am accused of either not answering the question or answering in too much detail and for too long. The opposition cannot be pleased. I answered this question quite clearly yesterday. I refer the honourable member to Hansard. However, given the problems with hearing on the other side, I am very pleased to go through these issues yet again.
I made it quite clear yesterday that, at this point in time, we are not considering the purchase of this land. From time to time the government does consider a range of reserve acquisition potential—and that is a responsible and good thing to do—but what I put on the record quite categorically yesterday was that, at this point in time, we do not propose to purchase this particular property.
I went through the issues and said that when assessing opportunities the sorts of things that we consider—and have considered in this case—are things like the contribution that the land would make to our ecosystem representation;
conservation of adequate areas of ecosystems to provide ecological viability, resilience and integrity; inclusion of areas that are of high species richness; protection of rare or threatened species, communities and ecosystems; protection of species with specialised habitat requirements and species vulnerable to threatened processes; opportunities to mitigate the impacts of climate change; and ongoing management requirements.
These are some of the very important and responsible considerations that the department goes through when considering reserve acquisitions—and that is a responsible and reasonable thing to do. I put on the record yesterday that, because of its relatively small size and proximity to the two existing conservation parks, the possible contribution of this piece of land to increasing the representation of the reserve system in the area is not, at this point in time, regarded as significant.
I also raised the issue that the prolific weeds on the landwould create a significant management burden for the government. I further put on the record that the land is currently zoned within the Hills Face Zone which already does offer it a form of protection from subdivision. Again, as I put on the record yesterday, the combination of the small size, the high price, the degraded state, the absence of threat from development, and the presence of existing parks in its immediate vicinity means that the benefits that are offered at this point in time rate very low when compared with other opportunities.
As I put on the record—but I am happy to say it again and again and, if we had another question time tomorrow, I would probably be answering the same old question again—DEH is highly unlikely to purchase this land at this point in time.
We are not considering it at this point in time. However, I also put on the record that the district ranger is working on options for securing the values of the land and I look forward to a further report from the ranger in relation to those matters.
As I said, it is a very sad indictment that, day after day, I have to stand up in this place and answer the same old questions.
You would think that members opposite would at least be able to come to question time with an original question.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I have a supplementary question arising from the minister’s reference to ‘ongoing management requirements’. Does that mean that, while the land is in private ownership, the pathways within the park might be under jeopardy and at the behest of whether or not the owners choose to let people through?
The Hon. G.E. GAGO: The Rann Labor government has purchased and added hundreds and thousands of hectares of additional land to our reserve system. We are way ahead of anything which any former Liberal government has ever contributed. We have an outstanding record of reserve acquisition—outstanding. The government operates in a responsible way. We have listed the sorts of criteria that we go through when we consider further acquisition. They are clear and transparent. As a government we are required to be a responsible administration—and that is what we do. The opposition needs to listen to what we are saying, and it should be applauding us for responsible management of our reserve system.
The PRESIDENT: Order!