Legislative Council

GOVERNMENT BILL: Statutes Amendment and Repeal (Simplify) Bill - Parks review contribution

March 2nd, 2017

Clause 93. The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: Clause 93 is an amendment to the National Parks and Wildlife Act. This amendment effectively does away with the 10-yearly reviews of regional reserves. Again, I thank the government for providing me with a briefing and also a written response to some questions that I asked. I want to put three very short paragraphs on the record, and I have a number of questions to ask as well. The reason the government has given for removing this 10-yearly review provision includes the following:

The preparation of the 10 yearly report does not require any public consultation and there is no requirement to implement the recommendations of a report. On the oth er hand, park management plan s re quired under section 38 of the A ct are statutory document s that are developed in partnership with communities and include recommendations that direct and guide the manageme nt of parks, including resource use on regional reserves.

The D epartment has advis ed that the preparation of a 10 yearly report has not been found to be an effective tool in evaluating and mitigating impacts associated with resource use in protected areas. The reports are not subject to public consult ation and do not compel government agencies to act , and given their infrequency are not considered a responsive mech anism for dealing with any land use issues as they emerge.

It is considered that removal of this section of the A ct will simplify the planning and management of regional reserves by ensuring that government resources can be directed towards working with community in preparing management plans for the reserves , and also managing impacts through existing mechanisms.

There are a lot of words there, but effectively the government is saying that they did not like doing them, they did not like the resources that they took, and they did not find them to be very useful anyway because no-one was obliged to have regard to the responses.

My response to that sort of approach is to say that you have effectively chosen to devalue those reports. They could have been an important tool for the proper management of these parks, yet the department has chosen for them not to be. My first question is: what resources have been devoted to preparing these 10-yearly reviews?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER: I thank the honourable member for his question. This bill covers a very wide range of areas and a lot of acts that are being simplified. We do not have the exact answer to that question here. If the honourable member has a suite of questions, I can undertake to bring those answers back, if he is happy to do it that way.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: I appreciate the position the minister is in. There are 38 acts of parliament being amended in this bill, so I appreciate that it is a difficult position to be on top of all of them. I am happy to take the minister's assurance to come back with an answer. I guess the frustration that I find with this is that so many of our National Parks and Wildlife Act reserves do not have management plans.

The act states that there shall be a management plan for all of these parks. I do not have the exact figure—and the minister might take this one on notice as well—but a large number of them actually do not have a management plan at all. That might not cause a lot of grief on the ground in terms of some remote parks that have very low levels of visitation and areas that might pretty much be left to their own devices and do not have a great deal of intervention, but there are other parks where it would have been incredibly useful to have had a management plan.

For example, Granite Island has been the subject of a number of controversial proposals about what is to be done there. They are going to reopen the cafe, I think. The Swim with the Tuna people got permission through the court to develop off the island. Those of us looking at what planning rules should have been around that proposal know that the National Parks and Wildlife Act management plans are incorporated by reference into the Development Act. So, it would have been a really useful guide to know what types of development were appropriate or inappropriate in that location.

I guess all I am really doing is calling out the government's claim that they think they are wasting time doing these 10-yearly reports. I do not think they have spent much time on them at all; that is my gut feeling. The government says they want to put those resources into providing proper management plans for the remainder of our national parks. I do not reckon they are doing that either because if you go online you can see that so many of our national parks do not have management plans.

I will give the minister these questions to take on notice. The first one I have just asked was: what resources have been put into these 10-yearly reviews? Secondly, what resources does the minister expect will be freed up to put into preparing management plans for other National Parks and Wildlife Act reserves? Thirdly, how many National Parks and Wildlife Act reserves still do not have management plans? Fourthly, which of those parks have management plans in progress or underway or anticipated? Finally, at what point does the government expect that all of our National Parks and Wildlife Act reserves will have management plans in place?

I am happy to wait for those answers at a later date—not too long, I hope—but I do not need it to prevent the passage of this bill. What I will say, though, is that having consulted with conservation groups, the Conservation Council, the Wilderness Society, the Environmental Defenders Office, they are not convinced that removing these 10-yearly reviews of regional reserves is a valid red tape reduction measure. They would like to see the ability for the government to, at least every 10 years, go back and review what is happening in these important parks. They have asked me if I can oppose this clause, which I will. I am not going to divide on it.

The other thing that I would say, and I was tempted during question time to ask a supplementary question when minister Hunter was explaining the importance of our national parks, but having gone 13 minutes already, I think it was, I did not want to incur the wrath of the honourable John Dawkins in prolonging the minister's explanation of parks. The question I would have asked, and the question I will ask the minister now, is that these regional reserves—they used to be called Clayton's parks, you know, the park you have when you are not having a park, because they are open to mining; they are mining and grazing parks, they are not just parks for conservation.

My question of the minister was going to be: is it still the case that 75 per cent of terrestrial National Parks and Wildlife Act reserves are open for mining? That was the case many years ago. Is that still the case? Three-quarters of our National Parks and Wildlife Act reserves are open for mining and, as a consequence, is it still the case that less than 5 per cent of the area of South Australia is off limits to mining? I will leave the minister with those final two questions.

The Hon. K.J. MAHER: I will put on the record that I appreciate the questions, and for the benefit of the record and all those who are here and in the department, I will seek those answers and bring them back as quickly as I possibly can for the honourable member.

Clause passed.

Remaining clauses (94 to 146) and title passed.

Bill reported with amendment.

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