16/11/2004 - 21:00

Critics hammer bush plan

16/11/2004 - 21:00


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Submissions for the State Government’s Bush Forever closed last week amid attacks from industry groups claiming the proposal is an attack on private property rights.

Submissions for the State Government’s Bush Forever closed last week amid attacks from industry groups claiming the proposal is an attack on private property rights.

A total of 51,200 hectares of bushland across 287 metropolitan sites are affected by the Bush Forever policy, which the State Government is attempting to enshrine in legislation through a Metropolitan Regional Scheme (MRS) amendment.

The Urban Development Institute of Western Australia executive director, Marion Fulker, said while the institute supported biodiversity conservation in Western Australia, it was concerned the proposed policy would allow the Government to effectively acquire private land for public purposes without providing any compensation for landowners.

“If this Government is going to reserve land for all Western Australians then the cost of conservation should be equally shared by all,” Ms Fulker said.

“Under this plan, it is possible that private landowners could be forced to pay for the long-term costs of conserving the land, which is clearly unacceptable.”

She urged a whole-of-government approach to resolving the issue of conservation and compensation for land affected by State and local government policies.

“The increasing focus on reserving urban bushland contradicts the strategic direction of more consolidated growth patterns in Perth as advocated by the Network City Strategy,” Ms Fulker told WA Business News.

“The Western Australian Planning Commission and local authorities have a responsibility to consider the economic and social impacts of the proposed policy as the likely impact on the development of the metropolitan region.”

ATA Environmental Consultants spokesman Dr Paul van der Moezel said there was no current zoning for conservation areas, and land zoned as parks and recreation under the MRS was not necessarily protected.

“Conservation groups have been calling for a new conservation zoning, and this is what Bush Forever is intended to do,” he said.

“It is a good thing to give protection to Bush Forever sites, and there is a degree of flexibility for proposals within Bush Forever sites.

“For example, if a proposal to develop in a Bush Forever site can be justified on sustainability principles, or if an area is already cleared in a Bush Forever site, those sites can be developed.”

Dr van der Moezel said while the Bush Forever policy had several positive aspects, he remained concerned about some statements regarding compensation.

Coalition for Property Rights advocate Leo Killigrew was more critical, saying the Bush Forever sites were not selected on the basis of scientific fact, and claimed they had been chosen from aerial photos.

“Bush Forever is much too wide and uneven in the way it is applied,” Mr Killigrew said.

“The land use and management plans for a lot of farms will be radically changed, and no economic benefit will be derived – if the land is for the common good, the community should pay, not the individual.”

He said cited Harvest Lakes as an example of an area that was previously wetlands, and was excavated, refilled and sold through LandCorp.

“If that were a private developer, it never would have happened,” Mr Killigrew said.


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