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Monday, 2 June 2003
Page: 15686


Mrs MAY (9:04 PM) —Australians have always had a fascination for our continent's magnificent coastline. We are a people attracted to the sea. Around Australia our coastal towns and cities are experiencing population growth as baby boomers make the big shift towards the beach.

Gold Coast city has long been a destination of choice for retirees and sun seekers; as such, it is under ever-increasing pressure from population growth. While significant areas of the city's hinterland and foreshore open space are now being preserved by the current city council, new and infill development along the coastal strip has over the years eroded important conservation areas. Only a few significant parcels of high conservation value remain in the densely populated coastal strip. One in particular is under imminent threat—at the hands of Queensland's Labor government. It is a site of just over 5.5 hectares and is one of the few lowland remnant native forests left on the Gold Coast.

I want to put this bushland, known as the Miami Bushland, in context. As I mentioned, the surrounding coastal plan is highly developed; as a consequence there are few remaining areas in this part of the city landscape which provide a viable habitat even for common fauna, so the Miami site is of high conservation significance. This elevated forest includes massive ancient eucalypts—some of which are 150 to 250 years old—which support a large range of native birds and animals. Birdlife such as rainbow lorikeets nest in the ancient hollow limbs of these trees. The bird population will start to be whittled away if these trees are destroyed, and the wildlife in the area will disappear, because, of course, with our ecosystem all species are interdependent.

The bushland plays host to some significant species, including—and I will use their common names—the flemingia pea, the olive bush, sandfly zieria and tall sawsedge. The tall sawsedge is the only known food plant of the endangered swordgrass brown butterfly, but I am afraid that up until the present time we have been unable to establish that the Miami Bushland is a habitat for the swordgrass brown butterfly.

Queensland Health and the Queensland state government own this rare natural asset. The Gold Coast Hospital Board purchased it many years ago for a proposed hospital in Miami. The land has sat unused since that time and it was expected that the Gold Coast City Council would swap the land with the state government for a parcel of land in Southport, which was to have been the site of a commercial parking station ancillary to the Gold Coast Hospital.

Since then, a letter to a resident from the Queensland minister for health, Wendy Edmond, has indicated that the Miami land may be surplus to their requirements and, if so, will be listed on the government land register so that other government departments have the opportunity to express an interest in acquiring the property. As there is no identified requirement within government, Queensland Health have indicated their intention to offer the land for sale on the open market. Therefore, if the government wishes to sell the land on the open market for development, they have the ability to undertake a ministerial rezoning. This would mean that substantial residential development could take place in this forest.

Councillor Jan Grew, whose council division covers the Miami bushland, has been a strong advocate of keeping the bushland in its present state. Councillor Grew recently urged councillors to support a resolution that the Gold Coast City Council renegotiate the land swap arrangement with Queensland Health to exchange the Miami bushland for the land in Southport. That resolution was adopted by the full council on 9 May 2003.

There have been many public rallies and petitions to keep the urban bushland in its present state. I urge the Queensland state Labor government to listen to the people and give favourable consideration to this land exchange. The land swap would be a win-win for all concerned. There is no doubt that this is a very special and rare piece of bushland. Once it is developed, it is gone forever. I sincerely hope that the Labor state government recognises its environmental significance and enters into a land swap with the Gold Coast City Council. If it does not, in the years ahead what is now the Miami bushland will just be another residential development. But if the state government does enter into the land swap with the Gold Coast City Council, it will leave an enduring legacy by ensuring the protection of one of the last remnant forests in the Gold Coast city.