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Thursday, 19 February 1987
Page: 391


Mr CHYNOWETH —by leave-I wish to cover a few of the areas looked at in the report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation. First of all, I refer to mine rehabilitation. We went to Kakadu to look at the development at Ranger and on the way we called in to see what had happened at Rum Jungle, where rehabilitation had been carried out by the Commonwealth. I think the Commonwealth spent nearly $20m making that area look something like it did many years ago. However, the benefit to Australia from the mining of uranium there totalled only, I think, around $6m. So it cost taxpayers a huge amount to rehabilitate this mine in the Northern Territory.

Rehabilitation is a matter that all mining companies should be made to consider when starting to mine an area. There should be some sort of fee placed on them to make certain that the area is rehabilitated. I know that at Ranger millions of dollars each year are paid into a trust to make certain that the mine is rehabilitated in the future. I trust that it does not have any problems with water storage, et cetera, which will really ruin the environment, but the money that is put into the trust fund, if used in the correct manner, may enable the area to be brought back to almost its original state-though it will never be what it was like originally.

The other area that the Committee looked at was soil erosion. Soil erosion has been brought on mainly by overgrazing and the fact that many farmers had been forced to put in unsuitable crops and to till very marginal land. One has only to go across to Western Australia on the highway to see some land near the South Australian border that has been used for agricultural purposes. It was used for a couple of years and now is just laid to waste. That particular land has been ruined and all the soil had been exposed to the elements. It will be blown away; the natural coverage has gone. Maybe because of economic circumstances some farmers have been forced into these sorts of practices, but a lot of farmers, and city people, have just abused the soil and the land of Australia. We should look at it very closely, and I trust that the Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation will take this on as a reference in the future. We have discussed it.

Also destroying our land very rapidly is the growth of our cities. They are spreading out too quickly. There is a lot of land but maybe we should be looking at increasing urban density a little instead of just spreading our cities willy-nilly over some of the best land in the country.

We also looked at effects on trees. The honourable member for Canning (Mr Gear) raised the matter of the greening of Australia. We can all do a little bit to assist in the greening of Australia. There is a shopping centre close to where I live and I remember that shown in the plans, about 13 or 14 years ago, was a series of trees. When the shopping centre was completed about five or six years later there were no trees. I made representations to the council and now we have 50 trees, they have all grown to 15 or 20 feet and the area looks very nice. That is the sort of thing that we can all do. We can make certain that we plant a certain number of trees to replace those which are being chopped down very rapidly by rapacious woodchip companies.

The Committee went to Tasmania to have a look at what was happening there. The companies have left some areas, and in other areas trees are being replanted but they are being planted in plantation form. As I mentioned in the adjournment debate Tuesday night, many of our native animals nest in trees. Seventy per cent of all Australian birds nest in holes in trees. If all the old trees are knocked down and are replaced by younger trees where will our fauna breed? Naturally, the paper and woodchip companies do not want trees with holes. We had a look at an area in Tasmania where a company said it was preserving the trees. As we drove along a road the chap who was showing us around said: `Have a look at this. We leave 20 feet or 30 feet of natural bush and knock down all the trees behind it so the tourists cannot see that the trees have been felled. They actually think they are going through the bush. It makes it look good and the people feel good going through the bush'. I said that to me this looked like a frontal lobotomy. There was a little bit left but behind it was all gone.

I must congratulate the Victorian government. The honourable member for Mallee (Mr Peter Fisher) congratulated the Victorian Government on agreeing with the farmers that the evaporation basin project should be stopped. The Victorian Government has recently introduced a scheme involving millions of dollars to overcome the salinity problem caused by overpopulation and overprocessing of land in the Mallee area and around Shepparton.

Another area I would like to touch on is historical buildings. In this report we recommend that the owners of such buildings should be looked after. In the electorate of Dunkley there are many historical buildings in the Mornington and Frankston areas. Some of the buildings there have been looked after, mainly through community employment project moneys. Residents are still in a few of the old buildings and they should be given some sort of relief if they are obliged to look after these buildings and maintain them because this involves more expense than caring for modern buildings. A beautiful building called the Briars is just outside the electorate of Dunkley. There is a raging debate at the moment on the Briars area because the Mornington Peninsula and District Water Board wants to build a huge industrial complex just behind it. The Board intends to build the complex in the catchment area of Balcombe Creek, which runs into the wetlands around the Briars. There are bird hides and it has been developed into a beautiful little spot. However, the local residents and I are up in arms against this development. It not only may affect the natural environment in the area; it will affect the visual environment, which is very important in a historical area. These are some of the areas which we have covered in the report. I recommend it to everyone to read. I trust that the Government will adopt many of the recommendations we have made in this report.