Strategic regional land use policy - question without notice

(25 November 2011, Parliament House Sydney)

Ms CLOVER MOORE: My question is directed to the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure. Will the Government's strategic land use policy identify iconic nature areas that sustain life for threatened species, such as the Pilliga Forest and the Gardens of Stone, where mining and gas expansion should not occur?

Mr BRAD HAZZARD: I thank the member for Sydney for what I think is her second question this session regarding strategic lands issues. I appreciate her highlighting both the opportunities and the work that has been done to try to safeguard our strategic lands across New South Wales.

Ms Linda Burney: That's not what the farmers say.

Mr BRAD HAZZARD: The farmers do say that and they take part in our stakeholders meetings. I am glad the member for Canterbury has raised this issue because—

The SPEAKER: Order! I call the member for Mount Druitt to order for the second time.

Mr BRAD HAZZARD: The stakeholders who are taking part in the reference group to develop the strategic regional land use policy represent a broad spectrum of groups that need to be consulted. I do not think this was ever done by the previous Labor Government. The reference group includes representatives of the New South Wales Minerals Council and the New South Wales Farmers Association. Fiona has regularly been at those meetings, which I have attended. The reference group also includes representatives of the Total Environment Centre, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union—which shows it is very broad brush—the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council, the Association of New South Wales Mining Related Councils, the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, the Nature Conservation Council, the New South Wales Irrigators Council, the Hunter Valley Wine Industry Association, the Thoroughbred Breeders Association and the Catchment Management Authority.

[Interruption]

If the Labor Party wishes to raise the issue of how it made decisions about strategic lands and coal seam gas, I will remind the House of a few words: Tuscany, Ian MacDonald, four bottles of red wine.

The SPEAKER: Order! I ask the Minister to return to the leave of the question.

Mr BRAD HAZZARD: I thank members opposite for their interjections. I used to love Breakfast at Tiffany's, but the visual image of breakfast at Tiffanie's with Ian Macdonald has put me off those words for life. But we are not going to make decisions the same way Labor made them. Returning to the question of the member for Sydney, we are undertaking serious work in this regard for the first time in the history of this State.

[Interruption]

I know the member for Maroubra has been at Tuscany because I have the list of people who were there and he was one of them.

The SPEAKER: Order! The Minister will answer the question and not cast personal reflections on other members.

Mr Michael Daley: Point of order: I am not sure what that was, but if the Minister is attempting to slur me I ask him to withdraw it.

The SPEAKER: Order! I ask the Minister to withdraw the comment.

Mr BRAD HAZZARD: I withdraw the comment if it was taken to be in the context of Ian Macdonald. With regard to the issue of strategic land management, this Government is working hard, unlike Labor. In 16 years of Labor Government no effort was made whatsoever to try to address the issue of how the lands of our great State should be strategically managed. We have seriously set about a major task. If it can be achieved in a short time that would obviously be fantastic. We are working toward that together with the stakeholders reference group. We obviously understand the impact of mining and of coal seam gas exploration. In regard to coal seam gas we have implemented a moratorium on fracking. This Government has issued no new licences for coal seam gas, nor has it extended or modified any existing licences. But the former Government handed out coal seam gas licences willy-nilly and this Government now has to try to bring together a strategic framework for protecting our lands.

It is the general consensus that good progress is being made. I met with the stakeholders reference group for nearly two and a half hours the week before last. There was a good feeling in the room. They are working hard to try to achieve their outcomes. We are not only trying to protect our strategic agricultural lands, our vigneron lands and our equine land; we are also trying to ensure that our high conservation lands are protected as well. In her question the member for Sydney mentioned the Pilliga Forest and the Gardens of Stone, which are both amazing areas of high conservation value. I can assure the member that we intend to protect all areas of high conservation value through the process that we are developing. This is a serious effort by a government that is trying to ensure that this State is properly managed.

Ms CLOVER MOORE: I seek an extension of time for the Minister.

The SPEAKER: Order! The Minister has an additional two minutes to provide further information.

Mr BRAD HAZZARD: I will take the House through some of the efforts that members of this Government have made. For the first time in the history of this State we have brought together all of the various government agencies that were otherwise operating individually. It has been a problem for years—particularly under the former Government—that the silos of government were doing good work in the sense of each individual officer and each individual government department working hard, but there was a failure to coordinate or to mesh those departments. At the Premier's direction we now have meetings taking place with Planning and Infrastructure, Primary Industries, Resources and Energy, Trade and Investment, Environment and Heritage, and Premier and Cabinet. It would appear from the noise that the Labor Party remains uninterested in trying to come up with—

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Maroubra will come to order.

Mr BRAD HAZZARD: We are achieving some positive outcomes through those agencies working together. Working together with the stakeholders reference group which, as I said, has a very broad base, we are aiming to try to develop strategic plans particularly in the lower Hunter and the Liverpool Plains in the shortest possible time frame. We will then sequentially target other areas where there are lands of high strategic value. As part of that every necessary step will be taken to ensure that areas of high conservation value are protected. A lot of work has already been done in relation to Dharawal National Park. This Government is committed to achieving the sort of balance that should have happened in the past 16 years but about which the former Labor Government failed to do anything.