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Thursday, 27 May 2004
Page: 29412

Mr BAIRD (4:30 PM) —I wish to draw the attention of the House to the protection of the Kurnell Peninsula. I have spoken before on this issue but this time we have had some real progress thanks to the assistance of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp. Kurnell is a place of great importance to residents of the Sutherland Shire. It is also of great historical and cultural significance to all Australians as the place where Australia became a European settlement upon the landing of Cook in 1770 and the subsequent settlement some 18 years later.

Last Tuesday Dr Kemp visited the Kurnell Peninsula, and during his visit I presented to him a nomination for the inclusion of the Kurnell Peninsula on the national heritage register. The event took place at a community gathering at Commemoration Flat in the Botany Bay National Park, which is just metres from Cook's landing place. Along with the minister and a significant number of Kurnell residents the presentation was attended by Mr Michael Richardson, New South Wales shadow minister for the environment; Mr Malcolm Kerr, state member for Cronulla; Kevin Schreiber, Mayor of Sutherland Shire; Mr Merv Ryan representing traditional owners; Mike Patrick and Christine Hopkins of the National Parks and Wildlife Service; and Mr Bob Walsh OAM, who in particular has shown a lifelong commitment to the protection of the Kurnell area.

This register, which was created under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, seeks to protect places that have outstanding natural, Indigenous or historical heritage value to the nation. The nomination, which was accepted by the minister, includes the entirety of the peninsula with the exception of residents' homes in the Kurnell village and the oil refinery which is located adjacent to the village. I have nominated the peninsula on all three grounds under the act—that it has outstanding natural, Indigenous and historical value to the nation.

The Kurnell Peninsula's natural heritage value is beyond question. As the House would recall, it has over 95 per cent of remaining salt marsh communities and more than 50 per cent of remaining mangrove communities in the Sydney basin. The Kurnell Peninsula also provides vital wading habitat for migratory birds which travel from as far away as Siberia and Japan. It was for this reason that the Towra Point wetlands were designated in the early eighties as an official Ramsar site.

The Kurnell Peninsula's Indigenous values are beyond comparison in Australia. It was at this site that the first momentous meeting of Indigenous and European cultures occurred on Cook's landing in 1770, and again when the First Fleet under Captain Arthur Phillip arrived in 1788. There is a range of Indigenous sites that were important to Aboriginal life in the Sydney basin prior to the arrival of Europeans. These sites include carvings, ceremonial sites, middens, stone tools and burial sites. It is fortunate that parts of the dune system and the Botany Bay National Park have helped to preserve many of these sites.

I was particularly pleased that Mr Merv Ryan was present at the nomination. Merv Ryan is the representative of the Gwyeagal people, who are a clan of the Dharawal nation, the traditional owners of the land. It was Mr Ryan's ancestors who met Captain Cook on his landing and were again present when the First Fleet landed some 18 years later. Merv was instrumental in helping me to prepare the nomination and he and the elders of the Gwyeagal have supported the efforts to protect Kurnell wholeheartedly.

As for the historical values of the peninsula, I have already mentioned the landing of Cook and the important studies by Banks and Solander and the landing of the First Fleet some 18 years later. Kurnell also has a collection of memorials commemorating the historic events, the earliest of which was erected in 1822, while the later obelisk dates from 1870. Assessment of the Kurnell nomination against the stringent national heritage criteria will be undertaken by the independent Heritage Council over the next 12 months. The council will then advise the minister whether the peninsula has national heritage value.

Once the site is listed, it will mean that the environmental, Indigenous and cultural values of the site will be protected under federal statute. It will mean that, without the approval of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, a person cannot undertake any action that has, will have or is likely to have a significant impact on the national heritage values of Kurnell, and this will be backed up by criminal sanctions for anyone not complying with the act. I now hope that the birthplace of our nation will finally be fully protected under law against the pressures of an expanding city, sandmining and continued development.