National Parks Amendment (No 99 Year Leases) Bill 2015

Ms GRALEY (Narre Warren South) — I am very glad to hear that the Greens political party will be supporting us in what was an election commitment to bring the National Parks Amendment (No 99 Year Leases) Bill 2015 before the house. Having dinner with my children one night around Father’s Day, as I suspect many people in this house did — —

An honourable member interjected.

Ms GRALEY — Oh, yes. It was down on the Mornington Peninsula. It was a lovely venue.

We got to talking about what wonderful memories we have of our holidays. My children are intrepid travellers; they are very inquisitive travellers and have travelled all around the world. Of all the places they have been, they talked about the many wonderful times they had at Wilsons Promontory. They reminisced about the animals, the landscape, running around Squeaky Beach and enjoying the clean beautiful surf of Wilsons Prom. I was reminded that on one occasion when we were down there for an extended period during a holiday break, we were dragged out of our caravan and tents and taken down to the community square at the Wilsons Promontory National Park to join the Hands Off the Prom campaign.

That was an important campaign, and if we want to talk about extinct animals in this house, one group of persons who felt the threat of extinction from that campaign was certainly the Kennett government. During that time, through the Hands Off the Prom campaign, the Kennett government was sent a very loud and strong message that people wanted their national parks for the people. They should be there for everybody to go to. That message was replicated during the Baillieu years regarding Point Nepean, a place I admit I frequently go to. For many years I have been involved in campaigning for coalition governments to keep their mitts off the Point Nepean facility and its grounds. I stood there with the late Joan Kirner and her friend Kate Baillieu, who were sending a very strong message to the former coalition government that people did not like what the coalition was planning to do at Point Nepean. The people did not like what that government was doing, just as over a decade before the people got the Kennett government to keep its hands off Wilsons Prom.

The reason most people do not want high-level, high-scale development in our parks is because most people could not afford to use it. It is my very strong personal view that most people like their national parks just the way they are. They want to see government spending money on looking after the tracks and making sure that the camping grounds are clean, well drained and fit for purpose. They want to make sure there are plenty of parking spaces and a minimum of services are available so that people can get out there and do what they should be able to do in national parks — that is, enjoy the great outdoors. People go there to walk, surf, build sand castles and look at animals. They want to do all those things that are instinctively what human beings want to do when they share experiences with their families. So when the previous government brought a bill to the house talking about 99-year leases a lot of people were very upset, and some of them included the now opposition’s natural small business constituents.

If I go down to Wilsons Promontory, I am very happy to stop off at the Fish Creek Gallery and have a Devonshire tea. I am very happy to go to the Koonwarra store and have a glass of wine on the deck. If I go down to Point Nepean and want to have a spa, I will have one at Endota Spa in Red Hill. If I want to have a drink, I will go to the Sorrento Hotel. I do not need to do those things at Point Nepean and Wilsons Promontory. I am quite willing to support the people who own those small businesses.

For the record I will read from comments of the then shadow minister, now Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water, when she was debating the previous bill. She mentioned Judith Muir, who is a good friend of people over there, as she is of mine. Judith is an ecotour operator for Polperro Dolphin Swims in Blairgowrie, an excellent company which has won lots of tourism awards and brings lots of people to the peninsula because it is a great day out. Judith has recently been awarded an Order of Australia medal for her work. The then shadow minister said:

Private development in our national parks will take dollars away from established businesses in local townships and curtail access to what is otherwise public land, either because of infrastructure impositions or cost of usage. The sense of place — that is, what people are so drawn towards —

because it is a special place to go to; it is not what they get at Sorrento, it is not what they get at Foster; it is what they get at Wilsons Promontory and Point Nepean —

will disappear and public access will diminish. I strongly oppose private development in our national parks.

There are many other things.

I note the minister is sitting at the table. I congratulate her for quickly bringing on this bill and acquitting another of our election promises. In her speech on the previous bill the then shadow minister said:

We have always strongly supported building regional and nature-based tourism, but there was one important caveat at the time we sent the recommendation off to VCEC for it to have a look at growing nature-based and regional tourism further. It was that recommendations should not compromise the primary management objective of our national parks, which is the preservation and protection of our natural environment. Given there are regional towns close to many of Victoria’s national parks … and given the large amount of private land that surrounds our national parks, there is no need for this sort of development in those parks.

This is exactly what the bill before us is trying to do. It is trying to make sure that our national parks are protected but also that the people who have good businesses, many of them based on preserving the natural landscape and the biodiversity of the environment in their localities are protected. People do not just come down to Foster to go shopping. They stop off at Foster, they get their goodies and then they fill up their car and go down to the Prom. They are complementary uses. However, if Wilsons Promontory is somehow degraded or overdeveloped — God forbid — Foster will not be an attractive place to go to either. So it is very important that this bill is now before the house.

I must admit that when I was doing some research I could not have said it better than the following group of eminent Victorians. Those opposite should really listen to what this group of eminent Victorians and star Australians had to say about their bill:

Until now our national parks have been securely protected under state legislation —

Labor governments secured them —

having been created after thorough scientific assessment and extensive comparative studies.

Why then is it now proposed to introduce uses into our parks that are inimical to the very reason for establishing them? National parks have not been set aside for grazing by cattle, logging, prospecting, hunting or commercial development. These activities, to be permitted in national parks in several states, are incompatible with the fundamental reasons for creating them — protecting our natural and cultural heritage. Such uses compromise and diminish the reasons for visiting national parks — to enjoy the beauty of natural landscapes and to relax in natural settings removed from the complexities and stresses of modern living.

This bill is about preserving our national parks. This is a significant piece of legislation not just for all of us but also, as other speakers have said, for future generations. So when my children are sitting around on Father’s Day and talking about their experience of being with Grandma and Grandpa at the national park, they will be able to tell of the good times and also continue to share the fabulous experiences that people have by just going down to the Prom, pitching a tent and enjoying the company of people who love the environment, or going down to Point Nepean and walking around admiring the significant cultural structures there and also taking in those magnificent views for all Victorians.