Tuesday, 18 October 2016
In May this year the Turnbull coalition government stitched up a secret, dirty backroom deal to lock the community that I represent out of 177 hectares of historically and environmentally significant green space at Malabar headland. Made in the shadows with the crossbench senator and gun enthusiast David Leyonhjelm, the agreement to lease out the central portion of Malabar headland to the New South Wales Rifle Association for the next 50 years has been met with anger, frustration and disbelief in our community.
I have nothing against the New South Wales Rifle Association or any of its members. In fact, they have invited me to some of their events and functions. They are good people and they are dedicated to their sport. But there are now many young families, elderly people and a large number of residents living in the vicinity of Malabar headland, and shooting is no longer consistent with the family environment that lives on the back door of where these shooting activities are taking place.
Having grown up in Maroubra, I have a deep appreciation for the headland and the place that it holds in the hearts of residents, who overwhelmingly want to see the government do what has been promised and find an alternative site for the shooters so that the beautiful and unique headland can be protected from development and returned to the people as public open space.
This is the last remaining tract of native bushland that exists in Sydney between the harbour and Botany Bay. Every other spare spot of native bushland along that coastline has been developed. We must preserve and maintain this historic green space for use and enjoyment by the people of Australia. The former Labor government commenced work to see this goal achieved to preserve the headland. The western portion of the headland was cleaned up at a cost of $2 million and handed back to the New South Wales government to be made a national park. The eastern portion near the ocean was remediated at a cost of $9 million and is now a national park. The central portion requires much more work, given that it was a former waste dump site. Independent reports indicate asbestos and leachate contamination.
Under the coalition government, however, progress towards returning this headland to the people has been slow and is now going backwards. In January this year, it was revealed that the government had commissioned a secret report into development options for the headland, which said that the headland was 'surplus to requirements' and would generate 'significant returns if sold'. Upon release of the report, the member for Maroubra, Michael Daley, and I, with the Friends of Malabar Headland, strongly campaigned against any development on the headland, and, in one day, the environment minister at the time, Greg Hunt, backed down and now claims there will be no such development.
The coalition government had promised at the 2013 election to return the horse riding school that was on the headland back to the headland within six months. It is now over three years and not one horse has returned to the headland. Now the coalition government appears intent on delaying the relocation of the shooters, with Mr Hunt declaring in January this year that they had a 'long-term future' on Malabar Headland and that finding the shooters an alternative range could take 'three, five or 17 years'. The shooting club must be relocated to an alternative premises. Meanwhile, residents are facing an increase in the frequency of shooting activities on the site. The rifle association has been offered a paltry $25,000 per year to lease the site and gain restricted access. The number of days of shooting has increased. Locals have been locked out by security guards from entering the site. We have a national park that no-one can go into on the days that the shooting is occurring because it is a safety risk.
The situation is a direct result of the Turnbull government's tenuous hold on power, which has led to this joke of a deal being done with Senator Leyonhjelm. It completely ignores the wishes of the community that I represent and locks them out of the headland for 50 years. The government needs to get its act together. It needs to find an alternative site for the shooting club, bring the horses back and provide the local community with safe access to the national park and this headland treasure. It is Labor's plan to turn this area into a parkland that is open to the people and a national park with walking tracks on the headland. We demand to know when the government will end this farce.