HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [ 9.48 pm ]: Earlier today I tabled a petition about the redevelopment of Shenton Park rehabilitation hospital. I would like to draw members’ attention to the fact that the two originators of that petition — Heidi Hardisty and Lynette Jennings — along with some other local residents, were able to get more than 300 signatures on the petition in just a couple of days. I think that indicates just how much the community in this area cares about what will happen with this particular patch of bushland. The proposed new development on the site will be called Montario Quarter, and the heritage-listed buildings will be kept, which is great; however, the planning for the site seems to have failed to take into account the importance of the bushland on that site. I want to be very clear that the Greens are a very strong supporter of urban infill as long as it is designed in such as a way a s to ensure that environmental harm is minimised and social wellbeing is maximised. Montario Quarter will be really well serviced by public transport. It will contain substantial amounts of public open space and, as I have mentioned, will also preserve the built heritage of the rehabilitation hospital. It really is an ideal spot for urban infill and we would really love to see it done in the best possible way.

I will give a bit of context around this particular patch of urban bushland. As members should be aware, Perth is one of the original 25 global biodiversity hotspots, which is not a good thing. The term recognises that our bushland is diverse and unique, but it also means that too much of it has already been lost, hence it is a hotspot. This patch of bushland acts as an ecological link between two Bush Forever sites, the Shenton Park bushland, which is Bush Forever site 218, and the Underwood Avenue bushland, which is Bush Forever site 119. The bushland areas in this part of Perth are all an essential part of the ecological link between Kings Park and Bold Park. The bush area is part of the remaining Karrakatta central and south vegetation complex. There is less than 10 per cent secured in Bush Forever sites. It is largely banksia woodland, which has recently been listed as a threatened ecological community under the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. The two Bush Forever sites it connects also contain significant strands of threatened banksia woodland. We know that this type of woodland is an important feeding ground for our vulnerable and threatened black cockatoos, which are known to also roost at the nearby University of Western Australia sportsgrounds, Underwood Avenue bushland and Perry Lakes. Regarding the planning context for this particular bushland, a large number of planning documents and policies recognise the importance of maintaining and enhancing exactly this type of bushland. The most directly relevant and the one currently enforced is “State Planning Policy 2 .8 : Bushland Policy for the Perth Metropolitan Region”, which states —

Proposals or decision-making should —

… Proactively seek to safeguard, enhance and establish ecological linkages between Bush Forever areas …

In addition, the City of Nedlands recognises this piece of bushland under the greenway policy, which seeks to enhance, develop and protect ecological linkages in the city of Nedlands. The “Draft Central Sub-regional Planning Framework Towards Perth and Peel@3.5million” specifically mention s ecological linkages. It states —

Green network strategies and policies should:

• create and enhance existing green networks and identify ecological linkages to connect the green network and assist in the retention of habitat for significant fauna dispersal and migration …

Another planning document, the “Capital City Planning Framework”, which was adopted in 2013, mentions the vegetation connectivity analysis and specifically discusses this area. It noted that further loss of vegetation in the area would affect the viability of not only the Underwood Avenue bushland, but also the Shenton Park bushland. We are talking about quite a significant ecological linkage.

It also needs to be noted that this is recognised as a bushfire prone area. With the bushland intact, half the site consists of a low fire risk. The community maintains that the infill development could be fully housed within this low bushfire risk area while also maintaining their heritage listed buildings at the heart of the development. I have some very real concerns, as do the residents, that the site design did not even consider keeping the bushland, which was certainly a viable option. So far, I have seen no evidence of any alternative being suggested to wiping out 50 per cent of the bushland or that anything else was ever developed or considered. I have some questions on notice in this place to hopefully get some more information about that.

This redevelopment planning has been working through the system since just prior to the closure of the hosp ital. The community and local government area were really clear in their submissions to the metropolitan region scheme amendment 1293 – 57, which was changing the zoning from special use to urban, that the retention of 100 per cent of the bushland was what they wanted; that is what they desired. It appears that the requests to maintain the bushland were deemed irrelevant to this stage of the planning process, which is really unfortunate. The submissions and the report on the submissions regarding the improvement scheme, where concerns about retention of bushland would be relevant, are not currently available on the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage website and I suggest they really need to be. However, the improvement scheme has been gazetted with a footprint that shows clearing of about 50 per cent of the bushland on the site. I note that that is not at all the level of retention of bush enhancement that the community wants. I have not yet seen the submissions made on the improvement scheme, but I have no reason to believe that the community, which is already starting to show such a high level interest in this issue, has in any way changed its mind about what it wants.

Time and time again in our strategic planning frameworks and state planning policies we see how valuable on paper we consider our urban bushland to be and how essential it is to our sense of place and the uniqueness of Perth, and this is consistently reflected by community submissions at every level of planning. But we keep seeing these good intentions ignored and, again, we see scientific experts who provide detailed and substantial information about the damage that will be done irreparably to our local environment ignored. In practice, we see the situation happening over and over again; that is, essential ecological linkages on the Swan coastal plain within our urban settings have been chipped away piece by piece. It is even worse in this case, because it is a government agency that is not considering the long-term importance of these pieces of bushland and how best to preserve and enhance them. The Greens for a lot of reasons want to see urban infill work as part of a future sustainable Perth, but it does not seem that enough thinking is being done in this instance to make sure that when we are doing this clever infill, we are making the absolute best of our natural assets and, importantly, the long-term future of the city. There is still time to rethink their plans for this particular area and that is certainly what the community wants. There is still time to work out a way to meet community expectations and also, importantly, ensure that we preserve these last remaining ecological links. Once the bushland is gone, we pretty much cannot get it back, so I certainly hope we can get some urgent rethink of the planning to date.


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