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Wednesday, 8 December 1999
Page: 11365


Senator TAMBLING (9:31 AM) —I table the explanatory memorandum and move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows

The Commonwealth Government, in its 1998 election commitment, Protecting the Sydney Harbour Foreshore , stated that it was committed to preserving the Sydney Harbour foreshore for future generations. The Government announced that, as the Department of Defence relocates from certain sites around Sydney Harbour, it would establish a Trust to assume management and planning responsibilities for those sites.

This bill will fulfil the Government's commitment by establishing the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust.

As the cradle of European settlement and the focus of Australia's most populous city, the Harbour is the quintessential image of our nation abroad. It will be the centre of international attention during the 2000 Olympic Games.

For the people of Sydney, the Harbour provides an avenue for commerce and the transport of people. The Harbour and its foreshores are a focus of city living and of recreational pursuits.

For these reasons the Government is committed to preserving the Harbour and its foreshore for future generations.

Over the last century, the Commonwealth has been custodian of some of the foreshore areas of greatest natural and heritage significance. Those lands have been used by the Department of Defence for the activities of both the navy and army.

Defence is relocating, or in some cases has already relocated, from North Head, Middle Head, Georges Heights, Woolwich and Cockatoo Island as part of the Government's program to improve the defence of Australia. As Defence relocates these lands will be vested in the Trust. The bill will also allow other Commonwealth foreshore sites to be vested in the Trust if desired.

The Trust will be required to manage the sites with the objectives of:

. ensuring that management of Trust land contributes to preserving the amenity of the Sydney Harbour region;

. conserving the environmental and heritage values of Trust land, and establishing suitable land as a park;

. maximising public access to Trust land; and

. cooperating with other Commonwealth, New South Wales and local government bodies.

The Trust will be a transitional body, established for ten years, to ensure that the Commonwealth's duty to rehabilitate the former Defence sites is fulfilled, and that the sites are returned to the people of Australia in good order and with a sustainable financial base for their ongoing management.

In establishing that financial base, the Trust will be able to recommend the commercial use of parts of the sites and their transferral to freehold title. However, any such long-term proposals will need to be considered as part of the management planning process and the associated community consultation. They will also need to be in accord with the objectives of the Trust which, as the government has made clear, are about rehabilitating, protecting and presenting these sites for the benefit of the whole community.

I also take this opportunity to reaffirm the government's stated policy of ultimately transferring North Head, Middle Head and Georges Heights to the NSW government for inclusion in the Sydney Harbour National Park. We will consider long-term arrangements for the Woolwich site and Cockatoo Island following the management planning process and while we have no final view, it is our intention that the ultimate ownership of these sites will be determined on the basis of the best outcome in maintaining these sites as community assets.

The Trust will consist of a Chair and five Members, appointed by the Minister for the Environment and Heritage. The Government of New South Wales will be invited to nominate two Members for appointment to the Trust. A full-time Executive Director is to be appointed to the Trust, and other staff and consultants may be hired.

The bill provides for the Trust to develop management plans for the sites within 18 months of the land being vested in the Trust. Management plans must be developed with full community participation, and are subject to my approval as Minister for the Environment and Heritage.

The bill provides that the Trust will establish a community advisory committee in respect of each management plan area, for the purpose of providing advice to the Trust on issues relevant to the management plan area. The Trust must consider the advice or recommendation of these committees. Additionally, the Trust may establish a technical advisory committee.

The Trust is expected to work in close cooperation with the New South Wales government and local government authorities, and is fully empowered to do so.

Due to the need to commence management planning as soon as possible, I issued a media release, on 13 March 1999, announcing that the Commonwealth Government would establish an Interim Trust to commence planning and public consultation. The Interim Trust was duly established and I formally opened its office at Chowder Bay on 15 August 1999, and announced the appointment of an Executive Director. The bill provides for actions undertaken by the Commonwealth on behalf of the Interim Trust in relation to a management plan to be considered as having been performed by the Trust.

In recognition of the considerable community interest in the future use of these foreshore sites, I released an exposure draft of the bill and explanatory memorandum for public comment in August 1999 and I am appreciative of the large number of individuals and organisations who took the opportunity to make suggestions. The government continues to assess the matters raised during the public consultation period and while that occurs I have decided to introduce the bill as originally drafted to allow Senate processes to commence. It will be our intention to introduce any amendments to the bill arising from the public consultation period during the committee stages of debate.

This bill presents an historic opportunity to protect what are without doubt nationally significant sites and I commend the bill to the Senate.

Ordered that further consideration of the second reading of this bill be adjourned till the first day of the 2000 autumn sittings, in accordance with standing order 111.