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Thursday, 14 November 2002
Page: 6469


Senator Nettle asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, upon notice, on 15 October 2002:

With reference to the rejection of the Blacktown City Council's application of August 2000 for funding under the National Reserve System Program to purchase the Remnant Cumberland Plain Woodland at Lot 101, DP 863828, Norman Street, Prospect:

(1) Could the Minister outline the reasons for the rejection of this funding application.

(2) When making his determination, was the Minister aware that the Norman street bushland had been given a Category A rating in stage one of the Western Sydney Native Vegetation Mapping project as carried out by the National Parks and Wildlife Service; if so, what weight did this carry; if not, would the Minister be willing to reconsider the grant application again in the light of this information.

(3) When making his determination, was the Minister aware that the Norman Street bushland adjoins a 3 hectare parcel of land that provides for a habitat corridor, which, if fragmented, would become ecologically unsustainable; if so, what weight did this carry; if not, would the Minister be willing to reconsider the grant application again in the light of this information.

(4) When making his determination, was the Minister aware that the Blacktown Council, in conjunction with the Upper Parramatta River Catchment Trust, has conducted various studies that clearly identify the Norman Street Bushland as containing one of the most significant areas of remnant Cumberland Plain Woodland in this area; if so, what weight did this carry; if not, would the Minister be willing to reconsider the grant application again in the light of this information.

(5) When making his determination, was the Minister aware of the thousands of work hours invested into the bushland by the local community; if so, what weight did this carry; if not, would the Minister be willing to reconsider the grant application again in the light of this information.

(6) When making his determination, was the Minister aware that only 3 per cent of Cumberland Plain remains in the Upper Parramatta catchment; if so, what weight did this carry; if not, would the Minister be willing to reconsider the grant application again in the light of this information.

(7) Can details of the community consultation that took place during the decision-making process be provided.


Senator Hill (Minister for Defence) —The Minister for the Environment and Heritage has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) The National Reserve System investment aims to contribute toward the establishment of a comprehensive, adequate and representative reserve system that will protect important samples of the full range of ecosystem types across the continent. Areas purchased for addition to the reserve system represent significant habitats that will ensure long-term ecological viability and integrity of populations, species and communities. The Norman Street property contains conservation values of regional significance, but does not meet the criteria for funding for inclusion within the National Reserve System. The small size of the block, its degraded condition, cost, and the opportunity to secure other larger and more intact areas of Cumberland Plain Woodland for addition to the reserve system were the key factors in this decision.

(2) I was aware of the Category A rating (greater than 0.5 ha and greater than 10% canopy cover). In a state-wide context the site was not considered to be a high priority for purchase under the National Reserve System Program.

(3) I was aware of considerations relating to the issue of the adjacent 3 ha parcel of land, owned and managed by the Blacktown City Council.

(4) Consideration of the studies referred to formed part of the assessment and decision making process. The work undertaken by the Council helped to clearly identify the regional conservation values of the property.

(5) The information provided with the application and subsequent contact with the Council clearly indicated strong community support for and involvement in the conservation of both the Norman Street property and the adjacent reserve.

(6) Details of the extent of Cumberland Plain Woodland remaining in the Upper Parramatta catchment were known to me at the time of application. Cumberland Plain Woodland is listed as an endangered ecological community under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

(7) The decision making process of the National Reserve System grant program is based on published criteria. All applications are treated as commercial-in-confidence in order to protect negotiations on price and conditions between the purchaser and the vendor. Community consultation is thus not a part of the decision making process.