Extract from Hansard
[COUNCIL — Wednesday, 21 March 2012]
Hon Lynn MacLaren
ROE HIGHWAY STAGE 8
HON LYNN MacLAREN (South Metropolitan) [7.31 pm]: I move —
That, for the purposes of —
(a) saving the Beeliar wetlands by preserving ecological linkages and a range of other key values including —
(i) regionally significant vegetation, which is becoming rare as a result of encroaching urbanisation,
(ii) habitat for a great many fauna species, especially internationally and nationally significant migratory birds, as well as seriously threatened species like the Carnaby’s cockatoo and the graceful sun moth, and
(iii) residential amenity, recreation and education;
(b) protecting our unique Aboriginal heritage; and
(c) redirecting funds into more sustainable transport solutions, such as an expanded rail freight system and a passenger light rail network,
this house calls upon the Barnett government to abandon proposed stage 8 of the Roe Highway development, and to request the Western Australian Planning Commission to initiate an amendment to the metropolitan region scheme in order to delete the current zoning for a road reserve over the area of proposed stage 8 of the Roe Highway development.
I begin by acknowledging that today we had several people in the public gallery, men and women, who have been campaigning on this issue for many years. They sat for some hours while we debated things like who would be on the Standing Committee on Procedure and Privileges and, earlier, the local government reform motion. These are men and women who have worked diligently and volunteered hours for many years to try to save this fragile wetland. I know they want an opportunity to express to this house and to the members present their passion to retain this wetland as it is and to stop the Roe Highway stage 8. But today, as we debate a motion for which I actually gave notice on 24 November 2010, things have moved on, have they not? The proposal to extend the Roe Highway west of the Kwinana Freeway to Stock Road is now being considered by certain officers of the Environmental Protection Authority because submissions have been made in a public environmental review that closed on 12 September last year. There was a long process through which a company called South Metro Connect, which we might all be familiar with from question time, spent an inordinate amount of money consulting the community about where exactly to put this road. Where that process is at now is that those officers will examine the submissions that we made during that public environmental review process, they will put them to the attention of the proponent, the proponent will potentially make some changes to the proposal and it may be shifted a little. In fact, on 2 February this year a new alignment was released by South Metro Connect that slightly amended the original alignment. It is using the same footprint, but the company is still continuing to tweak at the edges. At some point, officers of the Environmental Protection Authority will make a recommendation to the state Minister for Environment, and to the commonwealth Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, and they —
Hon Donna Faragher: It goes before the EPA board.
Hon LYNN MacLAREN: The former Minister for Environment has pointed out that it is the EPA board that will make that recommendation. It is important that we know what the process is, because this is a process that has not been derailed; it is continuing on its laborious path to build a road through a wetland, regardless of the overwhelming evidence opposing this road. So what is happening now is that the board will make a recommendation to the state minister, and the minister will decide what conditions have to be set. It is not just the state minister who will be involved, because there are certain environmental protections that trigger the commonwealth process under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, and under that process, the commonwealth environment minister will also be weighing in, setting conditions and making decisions.
Hon Simon O’Brien: The feds ought to butt out of what we do in Western Australia. They should not be interfering.
Hon LYNN MacLAREN: The process as it stands, until it is amended, is that the commonwealth and state environment ministers will, in parallel, consider the recommendations made by the EPA. It is important for us to know that that process is underway.
South Metro Connect is the body that is charged with carrying this project forward. The website of South Metro Connect states that South Metro Connect, comprising Main Roads and industry partner AECOM, is nearing the end of the project development phase to link Roe Highway at Kwinana Freeway in Jandakot to Stock Road in Coolbellup. South Metro Connect claims on its website that the aim of this group is to work collaboratively with the community to identify the best design and alignment option within the project boundaries.
The first point I need to draw to members’ attention is that never did this group consider the option of no road, no alignment. Never did this group consider the fact that perhaps this road is unnecessary, or that its impact on the environment is such that it should never be built. The website states that it is anticipated that the approvals and clearances required for construction to commence will be obtained by early 2013. We have another 12 months to go in this process before South Metro Connect gets through all its approvals. The website goes on to state that timing for the construction is dependent on funding. It is our assertion that this funding will probably be an election promise. It will probably be something that this government rolls out to save certain members who think that this road will be important for their constituents.
I have mentioned that during the assessment, changes were made to the design of the project. I want to specify what those changes were, because I do not think anyone is aware that changes were made. Those changes were made on 2 February, when most of us were probably getting ourselves settled in for the new year. There has been a realignment of the off ramp from Roe Highway eastbound to the Murdoch Drive extension, and related changes to the Bibra Drive bridge and the intersection between the off ramp and the Murdoch Drive extension. I am hoping that the minister will enlighten us on the benefits of this realignment. According to the website, these changes will reduce impacts on the Lakeside Recreation Centre, the Spanish Club of WA and the Murdoch Pines Golf and Recreation Park. I am sure the many residents who use these community facilities will be delighted that the road alignment has been changed and they will not be as impacted as they might otherwise have been. However, make no mistake: this will be a seriously large road, and it will carry, apparently, a lot of traffic. Therefore, no matter what the alignment turns out to be, it will impact the amenity of that area. The other change that has been made is a minor reconfiguration of the on and off ramp alignments between Murdoch Drive and Karel Avenue to improve road safety and traffic efficiency. We do not really have an opportunity to comment on whether those realignments will do this, because the public comment period has closed, and these changes to the alignment were made after that public comment period was closed. I am just hoping that at some point someone will brief us on how these changes have been an improvement on this alignment.
Over the next few minutes in supporting my motion I would like to explain that spending $620 million on building a road through one of the last remaining wetlands in the city is completely reckless from both an economic and an environmental perspective. Every dollar that the government spends on promoting this road is money that could be spent on more sensible transport solutions.
The Save Beeliar Wetlands group put it best. It describes Roe 8 as a pointless act of environmental vandalism against a sanctuary from which a great number of people and fauna obtain peace, enjoyment and refuge. The proposal was drafted over five decades ago in 1955 in an era when land clearing and extinction of endangered fauna was the norm. The plan for Roe 8 has not changed to reflect today’s attitudes and the understanding of Australia’s fragile wildlife. The proposed highway extension will destroy forever the beauty, tranquillity and amenity of the Beeliar wetlands. We know that the Beeliar wetlands are an oasis in the heart of the south metropolitan area with the EPA considering the area impacted by Roe 8 to be “of high conservation value and significance due to the ecological linkages it provides and the wetland, vegetation, faunal, ecological, aboriginal and social values that are represented”.
North Lake and Bibra Lake are recognised as valuable biodiversity sites by all three levels of government. Both are A-class reserves and are covered under the Environmental Protection Swan Coastal Plain Lakes Policy 1992, which prohibits filling, excavation, mining, effluent disposal and drainage. The two major lakes that Roe 8 would dissect, Bibra and North Lakes, are situated just five to six kilometres from the coast. A number of these wetlands and distinct ecological communities such as the rare banksia woodlands lie between these lakes. Roe and Frog Swamps are important ecological sites that are integral to the health of the Beeliar wetlands as a whole. Bibra and North Lakes are A-class Department of Conservation and Land Management reserves, included in the system 6 area. I am sure Hon Norman Moore remembers when system 6 was adopted. They are in area M93 and are part of the Bush Forever site 244. As the Public Environmental Review states, “Bush Forever is the primary mechanism for implementing the state’s policy to protect regionally significant bushland”. Where is this policy going wrong?
The case is overwhelming that the Beeliar wetlands are worth protecting. As far back as 1976, Dr Peter Newman, who is well known to us as a sustainable transport expert, found that the Beeliar wetlands were of high conservation value and should become an urban national park much like Kings Park. His study cites its “exceptional qualities, its characteristics and close proximity to population centres.”
I have talked about three tiers of government that have recognised these wetlands. The last tier is the national tier. They are on the Register of the National Estate of the Australian government’s heritage commission because of their environmental significance. The most recent “State of the Environment” report showed that wetland vegetation on the Swan coastal plain is being lost or degraded—we have heard it several times—at the rate equivalent of two football ovals a day. Yet these wetlands in Perth are supposed to be strongly protected.
For example, the wetlands conservation policy for Western Australia introduced more than a decade ago outlines five primary objectives relevant to the conservation of wetlands. They are to prevent the further loss or degradation of valuable wetlands and wetland types, promote wetland conservation, restoration and creation in some instances—that would be a great thing, if we actually created some wetlands; and to greatly increase community awareness and appreciation of the many values of wetlands and the importance of sound management of wetlands and their catchments in the maintenance of those values. Also, the wetlands of the Swan coastal plain position statement, which was prepared by the Water and Rivers Commission in 2001, stated that —
"conservation category wetlands are accorded the highest priority for protection and conservation."
The “Regulatory Impact Assessment: Revised Draft (Swan Coastal Plain) Wetlands Environmental Protection Policy (2004)” was finalised in response to an independent review of the statutory protection of the wetlands. It states —
"given the high environmental values of wetland systems, and the potentially significant social and economic impacts of protection, adequate resourcing directed to both improved management and purchase of land is required."
Therefore, a range of organisations have formally recognised these wetlands and stated that Roe Highway stage 8 should not be constructed. We have a list of them—the Environmental Protection Authority, the Conservation Council of Western Australia, WWF, the Cockatoo Coalition, the Urban Bushland Council, the Wildflower Society of Western Australia, the National Trust of Australia (WA) and the metropolitan commission of Aboriginal elders.
Debate adjourned, pursuant to standing orders.