Crown Land Management Bill 2016

Dr HUGH McDERMOTT ( Prospect ) ( 18:23 ): I oppose the Crown Land Management Bill 2016. This bill will fundamentally change the way Crown land in New South Wales is managed, owned and controlled. It is quite possibly the most significant rewriting of Crown land legislation in our State's history. Approximately half of the land in New South Wales is Crown land. Beaches, many parks, land that is reserved for the enjoyment of everybody falls under the classification of Crown land. To some extent, this bill threatens the tourism industry by potentially removing public access to these beaches and parks. This legislation also threatens the enjoyment of every person in New South Wales who enjoys access to Crown land.

Importantly, members of this House must remember that once lands are lost they are lost forever. The beauty of many pieces of Crown land, such as beaches and national parks, could be destroyed if they are sold and overdeveloped. Crown land is part of the common wealth of every person in this State—in fact, the common wealth of this State that was set aside for the enjoyment of all. Sadly, this Government has made a decision to remove that wealth from the people of New South Wales. The first aim of this bill is to remove the creation of reserve trusts into which land is vested and for reserve trust managers to be called Crown land managers. The second aim of the bill is the designation of Crown land into land of State and local significance. The third aim is the voluntary vesting of locally significant Crown land to local government. The fourth aim is to give the Minister power to issue management rules and new governance structures and conduct requirements. The fifth aim is the introduction of community engagement strategies for certain dealings in Crown land. The sixth aim is that the determination and redetermination of rents will be rationalised and simplified.

Vesting of Crown land in another government agency, statutory body or the Commonwealth will be permissible without notification. This is of particular concern because under this provision public land could be transferred to UrbanGrowth NSW, the New South Wales Government's property development wing. Local councils appointed as Crown land managers will be able to manage the land in accordance with the Local Government Act 1993 instead of the Crown Lands Act 1989. The bill also provides for the ability to transfer Crown land to local councils if it is to be of local significance.

The most significant parcel of Crown land in the seat of Prospect and surrounding areas is Prospect Reservoir—Sydney's backup drinking water supply, a pristine oasis of crystal clear water in Western Sydney. The reservoir and the pristine surrounding land are currently under the management of Sydney Water and the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service. In the surrounding bush I have seen many kangaroos and small marsupials and reptiles, and I am told there are also koalas although I have yet to see one. What if the land around the reservoir was sold off? Let us face it, this land is well situated next to Blacktown and near Eastern Creek. It is a developer's dream. Properties in that area go for over $1 million, and developers would love to get hold of a piece of that land and flog it off.

Mr Mark Coure: A block of units.

Dr HUGH McDERMOTT: Yes, blocks of units would be exactly what they would want to develop. Such development would destroy this pristine area. The pristine reservoir and surrounding bushland could be destroyed, along with picnic areas enjoyed by thousands of locals.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Anna Watson ): Order! The member for Prospect will be heard in silence.

Dr HUGH McDERMOTT: The development would be accompanied by traffic, hospital demand and school overcrowding which already plague Western Sydney and could be worsened by this Government's actions. Even the mere construction of buildings near the reservoir could impact the quality of the water. Runoff from building sites could adversely affect the reservoir's water and toxic chemicals could leak into our city's water supply. These issues are severe and must be addressed. There are other significant parcels of Crown land in the seat of Prospect including sections of the Parramatta River catchment area. If these parcels were flogged off to developers the people of New South Wales would lose access to this land. There is also the land surrounding railways and highways in the Toongabbie‑Pennant Hills area and in Greystanes, including State rail and roads and Maritime Services [RMS] areas. These are currently reserved areas that can be used for development by the State for State-related services.

These are things like the railway stations and improvements to the rail tracks. Then there is the Western Sydney Parklands, a beautiful area used by thousands of families every year, which has the potential to be sold off by this Government. The Baird Government will wriggle and squirm as its members repeat the lines I expect to hear from those sitting opposite now: "We're not going to sell everything off. We're only leasing land. We're not really selling it." Its favourite lines are "99-year leases" and "recycling", because they are too ashamed to call it what it really is: privatisation. That is what it is all about. Already the Coalition Government's track record shows what it is really about: the power grid, titles registry, country hospitals, land at Hurlstone Agricultural High School, ferry services and public housing, on top of the plans to sell off things like things like Sydney Buses. This is what the Government wants. These Tories want to implement a this neoliberal idea of flogging off everything that does not personally benefit them. If it benefits the people of Western Sydney and it does not line their own pockets, they will flog it off—and that is what they are doing once again.

If Premier Baird were still a banker—and I am sure he will go back to banking once he decides to leave here—and assessing the behaviour of this Government to work out the likelihood of privatisation, he would be certain that more privatisations work was to come. The Baird Government cannot take the people of New South Wales as fools by making the false promise that the Crown lands enjoyed by them will not be sold off. What is Labor's solution?

Mr Mark Coure: Nothing.

Dr HUGH McDERMOTT: There are plenty of solutions. The first is renaming Crown land as State land. This removes ambiguity from Crown land legislation and is far clearer than the Government's proposal of land of State and local significance. It also reflects the three tiers of government landownership. Labor will fight for provisions that will ensure that State land remains claimable under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983. The second is addressing issues with the bill's ambiguity regarding public interest and removal of the principles of Crown land. Labor supports amending the bill to include a definition of public interest whereby the hierarchy of the use of land will be in the public interest. Labor also supports the removal of the Baird Government's flawed proposal known as the "principles of Crown land". Labor supports the introduction of new principles, including the environmentally sustainable use of Crown land as well as sustainably managing the natural resources within it. Heritage and cultural values of Crown land must be preserved, and Labor believes this must be explicitly mentioned in the bill.

Additionally, Labor supports amendments that ensure that public use, enjoyment and amenity of appropriate Crown land is facilitated so that it remains in the public domain, where it belongs. Whilst the Baird Government is happy to allow a legal avenue for public areas to be made exclusive, Labor believes that our beaches and national parks must remain open to all. Furthermore, we believe that the use and management of Crown land by the Aboriginal people of New South Wales should be encouraged where appropriate. In fact, the suburb of Pemulwuy and the area surrounding Prospect Reservoir are where Pemulwuy led his people's resistance to white settlers in the 1700s and 1800s. This is a key part of our history that could easily be flogged off by this Government because it is Crown land. Labor believes a provision should be inserted into the bill that protects land claims lodged prior to 9 November 2012 in respect of the Minister's ability to retrospectively validate secondary interest. The brief time I have had to talk about these things shows that this Government has no respect for the people of New South Wales. Once again, it wants to flog off the commonwealth of the people of New South Wales. It is a disgrace. I oppose this bill.

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