18 March 2016
(Discussion on Petition Signed by 10,000 or More Persons, 17 March 2016, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)
I speak in support of the petition tabled by the Attorney General and member for Vaucluse. I thank the many people in the gallery for joining us today. The core function of a national park is to conserve flora, fauna and heritage and to provide the community with opportunities to experience nature. The Sydney Harbour National Park is adjacent to my electorate and hosts ocean cliffs, military history, stunning lookouts, secluded beaches and a national park. There are few natural and heritage havens in inner Sydney that remain untouched and we must protect those that are left.
Many of my constituents have contacted me, alarmed about plans for the Gap. Indeed, people across the city and country are concerned about the plans to commercialise this region. The petition we are debating was signed by more than 12,000 petitioners and I understand that this was achieved in around six weeks. Woollahra Council also objects to the proposal. The proposal is to upgrade six buildings for private function centres, restaurants and visitor accommodation. This could bring up to 1,000 visitors to the peninsula each day and will privatise the function of buildings. A new path will be created for a minibus to transport guests to and from the function centres. The proposal must be rejected. It will destroy the tranquillity of the national park, commercialise its function and impact on the natural environment.
The proposal will spoil the experience of most park users. The majority of visitors come to the park to escape the hectic city and appreciate the park's natural environment and heritage values. Their experience is one of passive recreation, an experience needed by city dwellers, whose day to day lives involve traffic congestion, city noise and work, and family pressures. The hundreds of visitors who will be drawn to the park to attend functions with amplified music and alcohol will disturb the peace that the park users seek. Visitors attending functions such as weddings will be there for that purpose and not to enjoy the park. The impact of the changes will be felt by those who visit the park to enjoy the natural environment.
The Watsons Bay Association's submission to the proposal highlighted that a solution that helps maintain the heritage buildings through private partnerships can be found by working with local communities, as occurred at Chowder Bay and the Quarantine Station. Leasing to a private commercial functions operator is not the only option. No grassroots process has occurred but there is still time. I join more than 12,000 petitioners—people in my electorate and across the city and the country—to call on the Minister for the Environment to prioritise conservation of this pristine, small, fragile ecosystem and historic park and to reject the proposal to turn it into a commercial function precinct. I support the petition.