17 March 2016

Ms TRISH DOYLE (Blue Mountains): I support this petition all the way from the Blue Mountains and I appreciate the Attorney General outlining her reasons for supporting it. It has to be said that there does not seem to be a patch of grass or building in Sydney that the Premier does not want to commercialise or sell off, and that includes our precious national parks. The Gap Bluff proposal for Watsons Bay in South Head National Park is just one of many. I understand there was little consultation with the local community in the early stages of the proposal. These historic buildings have been used for a variety of purposes including staff accommodation and they have been vacant since March 2014 as the Office of Environment and Heritage has looked at ways to commercialise these assets.

It is not the role of our national parks to be used primarily as wedding and function venues. It should not simply be up to the Minister for the Environment, who is supposed to be the champion of national parks, to approve such major changes to the use of our national parks. There are models of adaptive reuse for buildings within national parks that preserve heritage while allowing for some commercial activity without destroying the amenity of the park or surrounding areas. That is what we must strive for in this case. I love national parks and I am very fortunate to represent the beautiful Blue Mountains. I live within a World Heritage listed area and concur with the Save Watsons Bay group in its request for the Minister and the Premier to undertake investigations for alternative uses for national parks properties in the South Head National Park that are sympathetic to the natural environment and contribute to the preservation of the peace and tranquillity of this area of Sydney Harbour's foreshore.

The Auditor-General's report into the management of historic heritage within national parks recognised the potential to lease heritage buildings to the private sector. However, the report also stated that the agency should harness opportunities for low-impact corporate sponsorship and community involvement in the management of historic buildings. The report also stated that the agency has recognised the importance of the adaptive reuse of heritage assets to support their longer-term viability and has directed targeted funding to this purpose. The aim is to deliver good heritage outcomes together with social and economic benefits.

I note the commitment that a variety of individuals and parties were asked to make. It was a commitment sought by the Blue Mountains Conservation Society. They asked that commercial development not occur inside national parks in the Blue Mountains region. I was happy to support that request during the 2011 election period. The National Parks and Wildlife Amendment (Visitors and Tourists) Act 2010 allowed new exclusive commercial operations in national parks to flourish and for proposals to be put forward that looked at commercial operations. What my conservation society sought were assurances from their representative that any such proposals would not compete with restaurants, cafes, guest houses and other tourist facilities in the townships of the Blue Mountains. I am pleased that I live in such a beautiful place where we have amenity outside our national park. It is important to see well-managed national parks that attract people. I support the petition.