Torrens Island Quarantine Station

15 Sep 2010 archivespeech

This speech is to make some comments in relation to the Torrens Island Quarantine Station and indicates that the Liberal Party will not be supporting the motion.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (17:15): I rise to make some comments in relation to the honourable member's motion, and I would like to commend her for bringing this matter to the attention of the parliament. It is an important conservation and heritage aspect of South Australia that is tucked away and pretty inaccessible to most people, apart from those who work there for various purposes.

The Liberal opposition has gone through a reasonable amount of due process just to sort out what is the existing zoning, and so forth, of the area and what is proposed, and I am grateful to the many stakeholders who have been very open and transparent and willing to give their time to enable us to do that. So, first and foremost I would like to recognise the honourable member for organising a briefing for all members held at Parliament House in July, as well as a number of speakers she invited to address that briefing. In particular I would like to recognise Mr Aaron Machado of the Australian Marine Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Organisation.

A site visit was organised on 15 July by the honourable member's office, and I attended that along with my colleagues the Hon. David Ridgway, the member for Goyder, Steven Griffiths, and the Hon. John Darley and some of his staff. We were taken up the western side of the island to view the old quarantine station, jetty, burial ground and the northern end, which is a conservation park. There are a number of heritage and non-heritage buildings and the old jetty, which, I think it is fair to say, are in poor condition.

I understand that a non-government youth organisation spends some time there, as do Star Force officers and Australian Service personnel, so the site has been used as a training ground as well as for recreational purposes. I do not think that has assisted the protection of that site at all, nor have maintenance works been performed there, and that is a shame, particularly given the heritage-listed buildings there. I think there ought to be a conservation management plan—something the National Trust is very strong on—to prevent further deterioration and ensure that the structures there are provided with appropriate protection.

My office looked into the issue of the conservation park, which was one of the issues that Mr Machado raised. I was quite surprised to realise that the majority of the island is, in fact, part of what is called the Torrens Island Conservation Park, which most people believe to be just that northern tip. There are also two new parts which were added in 2005, and that is published in the Gazette of 3 March 2005. That took in a fairly large slab of the middle section to the east and the lower south-eastern corner as well so, on my rough looking at it, there is maybe 20 per cent that is not actually contained within that conservation park. The western area, which is slated for rezoning, is, of course, not contained within that conservation park, and honourable members have outlined the process that is being undergone there.

The area in question, in fact, the whole island, is located within the boundaries of the City of Port Adelaide Enfield and is therefore exempt from council jurisdiction. The area for rezoning is under the control of the Generation Lessor Corporation, so the usual requirements for development approval are based entirely on the recommendation of the Development Assessment Panel to the Minister for Urban Development and Planning. I think this process in itself probably leads to some of the consternation that people have, and perhaps to some of the misinformation that does not assist when these matters are before the community. Silence and lack of public information can actually lead to people becoming concerned about matters that are not necessarily as bad as they may appear.

As part of the due process, in terms of visiting that site and having a look, sharing the concerns of Mr Machado, the Liberal opposition also contacted two of the three companies which are seeking to gain parcels of land on that side. One of them is Origin Energy and I think it is fairly obvious that that is at the southernmost part and close to the locality of the existing energy-producing facilities there. That is for peaking power plants.

The middle section is for Maritime Constructions who would like to have coast and harbor access provided following their relocation from the Inner Harbor of Port Adelaide. I have some sympathy for Maritime Constructions which was relocated from the Inner Harbor. Snowdon's Beach, on the other side of the Port River, was supposed to be provided for all of those operations which were originally displaced from the Inner Harbor. The Land Management Corporation, in its usual manner, has denied a number of those operators and so they have been searching for some particular site which would suit their needs, and have perhaps have found something which may suit.

Indeed, I had a recent conversation with the Mayor of Port Adelaide Enfield council Mr Gary Johanson—and I am sure he will not mind me placing this on the public record—and he has obviously taken a keen interest in this issue. He has been seeking to have a site provided on the western side of the Port River, if that is possible. I understand from our discussions that they are ongoing negotiations so that may well eventuate. The meeting with Maritime Constructions last month was very constructive. I understand they are being granted the right to purchase that piece of land (which is known as No. 205) because all their other potential options—such as Flinders Ports and Defence SA sites—at that stage, as they relayed it to us, have been exhausted.

All heavy infrastructure will remain on their land at the Mersey Road site. I believe they were very transparent in their briefing to us and advised that they would undertake extensive efforts to preserve the conservation values of the site. They intend to actually restore the heritage jetty, which I think the National Trust has listed as a structure at risk. They would like to offer greater protection for the heritage listed buildings at the quarantine station and their intention, in terms of the coast, is to undertake minimal dredging of some 4.5 metres adjacent to the river access site, which they intend to offset with a riverfront site on the Osborne side of the Port River so that they can provide mangroves with the right conditions to germinate. They have engaged Bruce Harry and Delta Enviro as their heritage and environment consultants respectively and they have also sought advice from the Coast Protection Board on how best to minimise their impact.

I have also been provided with a briefing from SARDI. It is seeking to gain No. 206 for an aquaculture or algal biofuel pilot plant. It is obviously quite keen to enter into that research area which may hold some great hope for future industry which will be much more environmentally friendly, both in terms of its carbon emissions and in providing cleaner fuels for cars and the like. That is a joint venture with the CSIRO and Flinders University.

Their advice is that their pilot plant would not have a high impact on the environment due to the fact that it would actually improve the water quality in the Port River as high nutrients (which are mostly nitrogen and CO2 which exist because of the Penrice plant) are removed from the Port River as water is brought into the plant via an intake pipe and returned via an out-take pipe. Also, the on-land infrastructure consists of shallow ponds with plastic linings and some transportable buildings. In my view, they are not high impact.

In relation to those two operations, at least, I do not believe that their actions will have a significant impact on the environmental and heritage values. In fact, those sections of the honourable member's motion which seek to halt development I do not believe should be supported. I would also be sceptical that that old quarantine station has sufficient tourism interest to justify funding in a tight budgetary situation.

Honourable members may have heard me this afternoon lament the demise of Union Hall. There are a number of other heritage issues in South Australia which I think this government is neglecting and which have high priority. Maritime Constructions have indicated that they would be more than happy to manage those particular areas themselves. From what I understand, the government has said 'Yippee!' because they are off the hook on that front.

I would also be concerned about additional human activity which may be in conflict with those pristine sections of the conservation park and adjacent coastline: that is quite evident from visiting the conservation park at the northern end. There are a lot of mangroves to the east of the top part of Torrens Island and extending further south. They are clearly in very good condition along the coast there. I am not convinced that having a lot of people traipsing around in that part of the world would actually be good for the environment.

However, I must say that I am very sympathetic with the criticisms that have been made about the lack of consultation with stakeholders. While it may not be a statutory requirement for this matter to go through the usual processes where there are obligatory requirements to consult with various community groups and other organisations, I think that would have helped to waylay a lot of concerns and actually got groups together so that they could try to find a mutually beneficial outcome. There are a couple of clauses in the honourable member's motion which I do have sympathy for but, overall, I am not convinced that they are actually going to be of any assistance in the desired outcome and, therefore, the Liberal Party will not be supporting the motion.