HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [9.48 pm]: I rise because I want to bring the attention of this house, yet again, to what has happened with the ecological linkage between the Underwood Avenue and Shenton Park Bush Forever sites, which I have spoken about several times in this place. I refer to the Shenton Park Rehabilitation Hospital site redevelopment, which is also known as the Montario Quarter. The last time I raised this issue, the statutory planning committee had resolved to investigate the matter more thoroughly and to defer making a decision on LandCorp’s plan. It should be of no surprise to anyone that, after investigating the matter thoroughly, just as the community and the City of Nedlands have done, the statutory planning committee removed the building envelopes from the linkage bushland and required the fire plan to be redone so we could keep all the bushland. It also resolved that the design of the subdivision could and should be reconsidered to maintain and enhance the bushland, which is exactly what the council and the community have been saying all along. This is the position that the statutory planning committee came to after doing that additional research, and not simply relying on what was presented to it by LandCorp. Not only was that the right decision, it is also what the community wanted and needed, what the City of Nedlands has repeatedly been asking for, and what the Department of Planning’s own research has shown was needed. It was an absolute no-brainer. However, LandCorp requested that the decision be reviewed by the full Western Australian Planning Commission, and its amended plan included two building envelopes surrounded by bushland. That was accepted as part of the amended plan. This highlights one of the great flaws in our planning system, because this is now the end of the process—although not the end of you lot having to hear me talk about this in Parliament! The problem is that once the developer is satisfied with the decision, there is no right of appeal for the community or the council affected by the development. The Greens have long been advocating for third party rights of appeal in planning decisions and will continue to bring up the lack of options for the community that is genuinely impacted adversely by planning and development decisions.
Our banksia woodlands are precious, so much so that they are now being recognised as an endangered ecological community in their own right, and not only as a food source for black cockatoos. It is also acknowledged that losing large chunks of this woodlands’ ecological linkage to fire management techniques, instead of simply not building in the woodlands, is a reckless disregard for the future. This chipping away at our urban bushland just cannot continue, because if we are not careful there will be none of it left. We are really lucky to live in one of the few urban environments that still contains a lot of this remnant urban bushland. We live in a unique and special part of the world. We talk about saying we are going to honour it, and we write it into our planning strategies, and then we let a government body fall so far short of best practice that it is not funny. The gap between what will be built and what should be built is so large that it is almost surprising, in this instance, that we are not talking about a private developer. Instead, we are seeing, effectively, greed winning out over bushland and over approved planning schemes. It is happening on a regular basis; it is happening over and over again. The community is appealing yet again to the Minister for Planning to step in and do the right thing, which has been clearly identified over and over again. I cannot believe we are back where we started.
Many members may have attended the Perth Festival opening event, Boorna Waanginy: The Trees Speak, which happened over the past weekend, and ended last night, just around the corner from this place. It was a very compelling and immersive experience. One section was people speaking directly of the environmental and habitat losses that we have already experienced on the Swan coastal plain. The final section highlighted the efforts that individuals are making to repair the damage that we have already done. These are really great stories, but an even better story would be how we are protecting and enhancing what we still have, rather than attempting to replace what we have already destroyed. It is really great that we are teaching our kids to plant trees. We need to do that, but it is ironic that this is happening at the same time as some of those kids’ parents have to lie down in front of bulldozers. We cannot build a sustainable and future-proof Perth if we are unable to enforce the rules that give us a chance to keep functioning bushland and ecological linkages that will ensure that our remaining wildlife has somewhere to live and is able to move appropriately between habitats, and also to provide just so much benefit to our community on so many fronts. It is beyond time that we actually put into practice our words about recognising that we are living within a unique environmental heritage area. This whole saga has been extraordinarily disappointing and has absolutely highlighted just how problematic our planning processes are. We need urgent reform in this space.