Linear Parks (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill

Second Reading

Ms CHAPMAN (Bragg—Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (12:05):  I rise to speak on the Linear Parks (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2017 and recognise that the shadow minister, the member for Bright, has given advice to the opposition on the bill, attended briefings and indicated the aspects for consideration. I place on the record the opposition's appreciation for his work in that regard and, indeed, his continued work as the shadow minister for the environment and the good initiatives he continues to undertake and work on with our leader for a future Marshall government.

Whilst 'linear parks', a bit like pocket parks, has become a rather significant new description of parks in the last 15 years or so, they are not completely unique. We of course have a very significant one along the Torrens creek (now river), which supports an excellent transport system developed by the Tonkin government. They are not completely new, but they are very important in certain areas.

I had a look at an area, which I think could be described as a linear park, along part of the river system out at Gawler when the significant housing area in Hewett was developed. I was up there for the opening of a primary school, and I think Trish White was the minister at the time. In any event, I remember looking at this aspect, and they were developing a park with a walking trail and room for cross-country biking, which they do with thicker tyres. It provided an important space for children's play and adult recreation and relaxation along a creek area.

People who have been to the Gawler area will know that there is a magnificent river system through there, and even the Gawler township, whilst it has a rather quirky central area immediately away from the main river, produces a great sanctuary for development. As this was a private development, and they were perfectly capable of developing a linear park and recreational area for the community and prospective residents, it was important that, in the public space area, it was advanced. Ultimately, how the amenity is going to be maintained requires a lot of work because there is unquestionably extra attention needed if you are dealing with a waterway that needs to be not only supervised but properly managed for the future of the park, whether it is the erosion of banks, the management of pest control or the incidence of weeds.

When the government come to us as a parliament with this bill and say, 'These are popular recreational facilities and they are to be encouraged,' that does not really mean much as we have had them before. But what we are attracted to is when they say it is to establish, maintain and preserve parks, promote the use and enjoyment of parks, and promote healthy, active lifestyle facilities. We do not disagree with those things, but frankly they are completely superficial to what this bill is about.

This bill is about ensuring that the minister—in this case, as I understand, it will be the Minister for Planning—will have the power to establish linear parks without the pesky interference of multiple regimes of local government in areas that might traverse a linear area. The government are well known for their exclusion of local government from the planning picture. We have had these debates in the past. They have taken to a level of excellence their capacity to exclude the public from planning, and they have used all sorts of novel ways to exclude them in respect of development in this state and the planning to facilitate it.

When the government say, 'We are going to give the minister the power to make decisions about the precincts along these linear parks and the power to say whether they are going to have toilets, barbecue facilities, extra walkways, fencing, support structures over the creek, rubbish traps, or whatever infrastructure they decide should be in these linear parks,' then ultimately the thing that has to be addressed by anyone who actually develops under this bill, any current or future government, is that somebody is going to have to look after this.

Whilst the government are producing a legislative framework where they are going to have a minister make these decisions and execute the implementation of these parks, it will exclude local government contribution in the decision-making power. Of course, governments always say, and we have heard this before, 'Of course, we would consult with them. We would have a talk to them. We would identify what else they have in their public works proposals, what other amenities they have in the area, whether they need electrical lighting along there or security, or whether we can tap into some other initiative they are going to do.'

I have heard all that stuff before. I do not trust this government to deliver any of it. It does not mean that the core legislation is without merit, and we will support it, but this government should be on clear notice that there will be a consequence of the minister making decisions about what infrastructure is to be there. Depending on whose land it ultimately ends up on, there will be a consequence and a cost to meet for people other than the government, and that is likely to be local government, so they ought to be prepared.

One of the most concerning aspects of the legislation, presented to us as this happy panacea of children running along a creek line, is that we are told that, when they introduced this bill in September, they had not even spoken to the Local Government Association. Mayor Lorraine Rosenberg is currently the President of the Local Government Association and, of course, we thank her, her team and her members for the work they do at that level of government. It is unconscionable that the government should introduce a bill in which they are going to exclude the powers of another level of government and with this bevy of agreements, understandings and obligations of consultation pushed out the window. They did not even ask them for a review.

To illustrate the level of disrespect this government has in respect of other levels of government, but particularly the most vulnerable in that exercise—local government—I picked up the paper the other day to find a suggestion by the chair of the Riverbank Authority, Mr McEvoy (I have quite a high regard for his credentials and, historically, his work in tourism and the like). He suggested that, in respect of the development of the Riverbank area, the government really should be invited to bring in the responsibility rules and exclude the Adelaide city council.

I can think of half a dozen things that the government have proudly presented to South Australians as being consultative with council, including the Adelaide city council, which they are now utterly dismissing. Minister Mullighan came out on that day and said, 'Basically, if they don't do as they are told on this then, yes, we will consider taking away their powers. We have quite a good working relationship with the Lord Mayor, but we are on pretty unhappy terms with others,' whatever that means. That is the level of contempt the government have in the development.

Notwithstanding that, this minister brings this bill in here. I think he still chairs the Adelaide city committee, or whatever it is—I know because I read their annual report once a year. It is full of pictures, as usual, with not much substance. It has pictures of him, of course, sitting there happily with whoever else sits on it these days. I think there are two from the government, two from the Adelaide city council and I think it still chaired by the Attorney-General. In any event, it is a body which meets perhaps once or twice a year and, frankly, it does bugger all. Nevertheless, the government use this as their instrument of support to show that they are a consultative government and that they work with the Adelaide city council. The Adelaide Park Lands Authority is another one I can think of which is regularly ignored and which deals with the Riverbank Precinct.

I am very concerned about this government's use of powers that might be implemented through this. It does not mean that it is going to be a bad law, but it may in future need some protective measures to ensure that it is not exploited, abused or even circumvented by the planning administration of bad governments. Nevertheless, I indicate that we will support the bill and that this government are on the clear notice.