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Wednesday, 8 March 2000
Page: 14223

Mrs ELSON —I rise today to bring to the attention of the House an issue of great concern to many of my constituents. This is an issue which dates back nearly 30 years and to which successive governments have been either unable or unwilling to find a solution. I am speaking of the Defence department's pursuit of the Killarney Glen/Back Creek Gorge property—occupied by Mr Paddy Fitzgerald for his entire lifetime and for the last few years tended and maintained by his son Patrick after Paddy passed away.

I ought to point out that the Fitzgerald family owned this land since the 1880s, until the Defence department decided in 1971 to resume the property in Back Creek Gorge as a buffer zone for the Canungra Land Warfare Centre. Can I say at the outset that I do not personally have any problem with the land warfare centre. I am proud to have this service established in my electorate, and I am particularly proud of the men and women who work there. What I am not proud of is the Defence department's ongoing and bloody-minded efforts to defy all logic and community expectations to pursue the property at all costs.

I am standing here today on behalf of local residents who want to ensure that public access to the property is maintained and that the unique environmental aspects of the land are preserved for future generations. To fully detail the 25-year legal battle and the promises made and broken by successive governments to the Fitzgerald family would defy a 20-minute speech, let alone the short three-minute opportunity I have today. What I want to say is that this heritage listed property, admired by locals for years and by bushwalkers from all around the nation and overseas, should not be sacrificed for the sake of never taking a backward step, which seems to be the only reason for the Defence department's trenchant position. They have yet to explain why this property remains so desperately needed while others nearby do not. They have yet to explain, if this property is so desperately needed for safety reasons, why there has been public access to it for the last 30 years and, indeed, Mr Fitzgerald and his family have lived there.

It is one thing to claim you have the law on your side; it is another to be doing the wrong thing. I share the views of many local residents who do not want to see this special property lost to the community. I want to assure the friends of Back Creek Gorge, the Local Progress Association and other concerned residents that I will continue to fight for ongoing public access. Killarney Glen is a special place. It ought to be preserved and admired and enjoyed by generations of local residents. I urge the Defence department to rethink its position, to consider the will of the majority of local residents and to help find a solution to this problem. I will personally continue to pursue this at the highest level.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Nehl)—Order! In accordance with standing order 275A, the time for members' statements has concluded.