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Thursday, 26 March 1987
Page: 1660


Mr BILNEY(10.43) —I would like to take a few moments of the time of the House this evening to draw attention to the scope for local action at the grass roots level to protect important heritage and environment values when they are under threat from undesirable commercial developments. Too often it is thought that Federal Government action on heritage and environment matters is the be all and end all of what is required in this area. As a conservationist, I agree that Federal Government action is important and desirable in certain areas. For example, if it had not been for resolute and high level action by the Federal Government in the case of the Franklin Dam, involving ultimately a High Court of Australia case and a wide interpretation by that court of the external affairs power under the Constitution, the Franklin Dam would now be covering a huge area which our action has preserved forever.

In the case of the Great Barrier Reef, now again under threat from the Bjelke-Petersen Government with its proposal to sell off Barrier Reef islands to developers, it took the Hawke Government to declare the great bulk of the Barrier Reef as a marine park and thus preserve all of that priceless natural wonder. Federal Government action over Uluru, or Ayers Rock, as it used to be known, to return it to its traditional owners was a crucial step. The Federal Government's action over Kakadu is yet another example.

But what I want to talk about here is the scope for local community action by ordinary people who want to preserve perhaps less spectacular but nevertheless important heritage and environmental values in their own immediate surroundings and neighbourhood. My electorate of Kingston, as the House knows, consists to a great extent of recently developed housing estates on a large scale. For the most part, this development has taken place in a way which has not destroyed the character of the area, which is one of the earliest settled areas in South Australia. There are still large areas of open space, unspoiled beaches, vineyards, a conservation park, and so on. Occasionally a proposal comes along which poses a real threat to the character of a particular area. It is on the local community level that such threats need to be resisted.

One of the prettiest areas in my electorate is the village of Old Reynella-named for John Reynell, who was one of Australia's earliest winemakers. In fact Chateau Reynella, which is now Australia's oldest working winery, dates from 1838. It has been meticulously and sympathetically restored by the Hardy family and is now a major tourist attraction. But under a development proposal which has recently come forward from a company based in Perth, the General Corporation of Australia Ltd, which I understand is partly owned overseas, almost all the western half of this historic village would be destroyed, including old church and school buildings which date from the very first years of South Australian settlement. And to do what? To put up another huge shopping centre. The residents of Old Reynella, to their very great credit, have banded together to form the Society for the Preservation and Restoration of Old Reynella. They were prompted by this development to attempt to preserve the character of the quiet and charming place in which they have chosen to live.

I want to take a moment to talk about the status of this company. According to information which has come from the Perth Stock Exchange and Western Australian Corporate Affairs Commission, General Corporation of Australia has had a somewhat checkered career in recent times. At present it has been suspended from trading for its failure to present a 1986 annual report, a failure which I understand persists to this day. It is clearly not a company which would be one's first choice to carry out sympathetically an operation to preserve the heritage values of an important part of South Australia's heritage and, indeed, the south. I think what one needs to consider is: For what is this being done? In my area-indeed, I see that the honourable member for Mayo (Mr Downer) is in the House this evening-a number of the older towns have been preserved, such as the town of McLaren Vale, the town of Willunga and the town of Old Noarlunga. I believe that in the future it will be to such places that people will be attracted to live and to look, rather than to huge shopping centres which simply destroy the character of the area. I lend my full support to the Society for the Preservation and Restoration of Old Reynella in its efforts. I wish it well. I believe that once the status of the company which is proposing this massacre, this rape, of Old Reynella becomes known, the proposal will be rejected by the responsible bodies, the Noarlunga Council and the South Australian State Government, which I have no reason to believe will neglect their responsibilities in this regard.