Everywhere we look around New South Wales, we see green space under threat—whether it is parks, a forest or trees on the roadside. Where the community sees recreation, environmental space and biodiversity, the New South Wales Government sees an opportunity for the chainsaw and the bulldozer for their developer mates. Just on Tuesday, the New South Wales Government released regulations for its devastating land-clearing legislation that puts huge amounts of the State at risk. Nothing short of a national park is safe. The regulations put in place the flawed biodiversity offset scam, the so-called self‑assessable codes that create a pathway to clearing just about anything and the Vegetation State Environmental Planning Policy [SEPP] that will see these horrendous changes extended to urban native vegetation. The biodiversity, green space and climate change implications of these regulations will be enormous. The Greens intend to vigorously oppose them and push and push for changes that protect the future of our planet, our animals and our future generations.
What this Government does not understand is that a healthy environment, trees and their canopies and green space are not a luxury; they are essential for healthy communities. Even if people do not accept that the environment has intrinsic value or believe in environmental protection and the promotion of biodiversity, surely they must accept the significant social, health and economic benefits, including opportunities for recreation and exercise, that green spaces can provide as well as reduced heat island effects and better air quality.
The Total Environment Centre launched the SOS Green Spaces campaign at the end of 2016 in response to the threats facing our parks, trees and parklands across New South Wales. This project was launched in response to the New South Wales Government’s legislative onslaught against the environment—the Crown Lands Management Amendment Act 2016, the erroneously named Biodiversity Conservation Act, which expands the biodiversity offset scam, and the Local Land Services Act, which makes land clearing much easier. The centre has identified an opportunity in amongst this carnage, and that is the green grid being proposed by the Sydney Greater Commission as part of its strategic planning of the Greater Sydney area. Whether or not the green grid becomes a reality is of vital importance to this city.
A whole suite of measures can be enacted immediately: ensuring the environmental, social and economic benefits of tree canopies are accounted for, making loss of public green open space a disallowable instrument and having tree canopy targets in district plans. As part of this campaign the centre released a map of all the areas under risk in Greater Sydney, and it is sobering to study this map. I have had the pleasure of visiting many of the places on this map, including St Helens Park at Campbelltown, the bushland at Manly Vale, the trees being cut down for the CBD and South East Light Rail in the eastern suburbs, as well as the green spaces and critically endangered habitat that is swallowed up by WestConnex at Beverly Grove. Some of them, sadly, have already been decimated.
One particular example I want to highlight is the Cook Cove southern development proposal near Rockdale. This terrible proposal would transfer a significant amount of public land—including Barton Park, the Riverine Park Wetlands that include the Landing Light Wetland and the Spring Street Wetland, and parts of the heritage-listed Arncliffe market gardens—to a private golf course.
I repeat: the transfer of public land, including public playing fields, internationally significant wetlands and priceless heritage, to a private golf course. At a time when there is a significant increase in population planned for areas like Rockdale, as has been proposed in the Cook Cove Indicative Development Proposal, it makes no sense to be taking away public space and reserving it for private interests. Much of this development may include units, and thus there will only be higher demand for open, green space in the future. This area must be retained and its environment enhanced, not destroyed. The Greens are proud to support the SOS Green Spaces campaign. We urge the Government to stop the destruction of the environment and commit to not only reversing the decline of green spaces and trees but also expanding environmental protections, and improving and enhancing urban green spaces across New South Wales.