HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [9.52 pm]: I rise because I need to talk about something to do with the Shenton Park Rehabilitation Hospital site. I have spoken about this issue before. I want to talk about what has happened with the infill development. This site is otherwise known as Montario Quarter. As I said before in this place, I recognise that infill is needed, but we must be looking at good infill. Particularly on the Swan coastal plain, we really need to be looking at green infill that will prioritise and protect our natural assets. I have talked previously about why it is critical that we look at maintaining the ecological linkage that this particular patch of bushland is part of. The frustrating thing is it is clear that there is a possibility that it could be saved and that the infill targets could be met while at the same time keeping and enhancing the existing bushland. It seems it is through sheer bloody-mindedness that the government keeps pushing ahead with an old plan. We see this in what has been demonstrated with the planning and clearing permit process over the last couple of months. I have spoken comprehensively in this place about the community’s and the local government’s views that have been absolutely consistent and loud in their desire to retain and enhance the ecological linkage. I note that their desire is also completely in accord with our overarching state planning policies and strategies. I asked in this place in September last year what planning processes remain to be completed prior to the absolutely unnecessary destruction of that particular patch of bushland. I was told at the time that no planning processes remained and that the application to receive a clearing permit had been made. As part of the process, in due course the application became available for public comment, and that closed on 6 November last year. When I asked again in this place about the public responses to the permit application, I was advised that there were 1 001 submissions against the clearing and that zero submissions had been received in support of the clearing application. I was also advised by the community that it was aware that more submissions against the clearing had been made. The point is that there was overwhelming community opposition to the clearing plan, and that point had been well and truly made.
I have been watching and waiting for a determination on the clearing application, and it has not come. We have been wondering where it is. Instead, I saw a report in the local newspaper that there was some kind of hold-up. When I asked about this again last week in Parliament I found out that, lo and behold, LandCorp has requested that the clearing permit process be frozen while it instead chooses to undertake a subdivision proposal. I am not sure why. I asked a question in Parliament today about this, but I have been requested to put it on notice because of the level of detail apparently required. For the information of members, a subdivision approval is one way to get an exemption for clearing native bushland. Once the subdivision approval is in place, no approvals for clearing are required from the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation. LandCorp has clearly ignored the community and the environmental agencies’ clear direction to retain the bushland and instead is planning a multistorey building inside the bushland. To be clear, turning the area into a wooded parkland that is largely devoid of any environmental value—certainly of the values that make it such an important ecological linkage at the moment—instead of razing it entirely does not count as listening to the community.
Clearing permit application CPS 7781/1 was applied for in September, closed for public comment in November, and received an overwhelmingly negative response from the community and the council. Then in December, LandCorp suddenly submits a subdivision approval request to the Western Australian Planning Commission. The answer to my question 590 made it clear that subdivision approval was not on the cards back in September. The question has to be asked: what changed between September and December? The simple answer is that all we can see is the clearing permit public comment period, in which it became clear that there was just no support for going down this path. Now we are expecting the outcome of the subdivision approval process in April.
There is no need to jump through all these hoops to avoid the reality that this is an essential ecological linkage that should not be cleared. We just need to drop the need for the clearing in the first place. All that requires is rethinking the design for the Montario Quarter. There is no need, and there is also no community support for trashing this piece of bushland. Instead, it is such a lost opportunity because it could be an ideal site to show the community that infill, which the Greens support, can be done sensitively and in compliance with all state planning strategies and policies, and can also be done in a way that the community applauds. It will also stop making a mockery of undertaking community engagement. It actually is not all that hard to create a proposal that would meet with full community support. In fact, the community has some great ideas about how to keep the bushland and provide the infill numbers. It just needs to be listened to, because we could have a win–win solution here. This sort of behaviour by LandCorp, swapping its way through the planning and approval processes if it runs into problems that it is unhappy with, is exactly the sort of behaviour that makes people suspicious and distrustful of government agencies. It is obvious what the right thing to do is, and I am inviting the minister to do it.
House adjourned at 9.59 pm