Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 27 November 2002
Parliamentary Record 9
Debates for 9th Assembly 2001 - 2005; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 9th Assembly 2001 - 2005
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Wednesday 27 November 2002 Mr VATSKALIS (Lands and Planning): Madam Speaker, I would like to make some comments on the terms of reference. I note the very belated interest of the members of the other side about the EPA and their comments about our taking 18 months to actually put in place a reference for an EPA. On the other hand, it took them 27 years to come up with the idea of supporting the environment. If I were to comment on some of the comments that the Opposition Leader made previously about the Gouldian finches and how well they have developed and how well they have protected at Mt Todd, I would also have to remind him that in a recent project they gave carte blanche to ADrail to do anything they liked. They did not have to obey any of the legislation in the Territory, either environmental or heritage. It is because of their good management they have not really done damage to the environment. There was some unavoidable damage, and certainly we have not bagged ADrail for their activities. The Gouldian finch situation that was widely criticised by the media, we have since found out after discussions with ADrail that the impact with the Gouldian finch colony was not as significant as first reported. Secondly, the Ferguson River incident where ADrail took water. Well, ADrail was given permission to take water from any where they liked, as much water as they liked, whenever they liked. That was permission given by the previous government which did not put in place an EPA and notably the environment committee they had in place did not even consider the issue before they started talking to ADrail or awarded contracts to ADrail. I find it very hypocritical of them to come in here today to tell us that we are going against our agenda, against our policy, and that it took us 18 months to come up with the idea of a committee to look into the establishment of an EPA. I would like to remind the members on the other side that I was the minister who landed myself in hot water when I publicly advocated the establishment of an EPA, and all of a sudden the mining industry came up howling because all these years you scared them stiff about an EPA. Anywhere else in Australia there is an Environmental Protection Agency, an environmental protection authority, a mining industry, and heavy and light industry which work very well with them. But not in the Territory. If we have one in the Territory it will work to our benefit. It is about time you were looking at an EPA. It is the time to avoid the mistakes other states and territories made in the past. Let me also remind you, this government was the one that established the independence of the Office of the Environment and Heritage. This is the government that established total independent reporting to the minister directly, because we had to ensure that what this office was doing would not be a part of the public service and all the reports would not disappear in tonnes of paper work created by public service but would go direct to the minister. That was good because when we had some incidents with ADrail, the report was immediate. The minister reacted immediately, and the then minister - that was me - decided to appoint extra staff at the independent office of the environment to assist ADrail and also to assist in the future of the gas industry. Yes, there is a new minister, but with the new minister I share common interest. We both care about the environment. We both live in Darwin; we have nowhere else to go, this is where our family is, our family is growing like your family. We care about the environment because we know that we do not own the environment. We only care for it while we are alive and we are going to give it to our children and they are going to give it to their children. What we are doing here is putting the basis of something that is actually going to do something for the Territory, for the environment. Our environment credentials are there for you to see. I cannot see yours - well, I have seen yours. The member for Daly was criticised for the Hotel Darwin. He told us that he was a great conservationist and also supported heritage, and he made so many heritage listings. I agree with him; he made them, surprise! - four months before the election. He is also a great supporter of heritage but he was the one who signed for the railway line to go through the railway precinct of the Adelaide River railway station and his signature is there to be seen by everybody because it is a public document. Do not talk to us about heritage. We know what heritage means. We could see the great results of heritage conservation watching the car park break-up at the old Hotel Darwin. In other states, even if there is concrete cancer, governments are prepared to assist private businessmen to maintain these buildings because you cannot construct these buildings again. If they are gone, they are gone forever. You decided to go travelling. You did not decide to sign a stay of demolition - we will give you $lm to maintain it, we will give you $lm to go back and gut it and fix it. I can give many examples of buildings that have been gutted, maintained the exterior and repaired internally. Actually, the previous Hotel Darwin had very good heritage potential. Everybody could see it. It is unfortunate, we might have to sell our legacy here. 3063
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