Landscape South Australia Bill

Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (11:59): I am proud to speak to the Landscape South Australia Bill. It is a much-needed birthday for the Natural Resources Management Act 2004. There is a whole range of reasons, which I will go into shortly, why it is a much-needed birthday, but just for the clarity of the house and for full transparency, my wife, who is an environmental scientist—as I have explained when I have spoken about natural resources before—was heavily involved in the establishment of what was called in the day 'integrated natural resources management'. The interesting thing is that before I was even elected into parliament—yes, I was preselected in 2004 and then elected in 2006—I had a little bit of inside knowledge of the operations of the act and how it went forward in the so-called management of our natural resources.

One of the main issues for me as a farmer and landholder is that over time farmers and other landholders have switched off, basically. They have switched off to how this legislation, the old legislation, was supposed to assist us as members of parliament and assist the state and departments in managing natural resources across the state. In the old days, we had pest plant boards and soil management boards, and there was much more activity on the ground when these boards were in place.

Sadly, what has happened with natural resources management over time is it has morphed into a huge bureaucracy. I was saddened at the time when the 300-odd staff who work in this space, instead of being semi-independent to a degree—because I do not know if they were fully independent—were morphed into what at the time was the department of environment, water and natural resources and so essentially became part of the system.

I think that was a real tragedy and I have seen firsthand, at ground level, how the old legislation has not worked. As I indicated, my wife, Sally, was heavily involved in setting this up in the early days and I learnt firsthand that a lot of the rules around management of this act and management of resources were more about replacing plans and reviewing plans. These were extensive plans.

They would be either three-year plans or five-year plans that had to be reviewed. Volumes and volumes of work was done in this space. Sadly, as a practical person, it worries me that it was buried in paperwork and not on-ground works. Do not get me wrong: there have been some great projects, especially during the Millennium Drought, in regard to the river, land management on the River Murray flats and other proposals, but the problem is that over time those good projects have been too few and too far between.

As I said, the whole issue has caused a lot of frustration, so that, sadly, a lot of landholders, farmers and others have just switched off. In fact, during the Millennium Drought, when the shorelines of Lake Alexandrina and Lake Albert crept so many hundreds of metres out and Lake Albert nearly completely disappeared, there was an issue of boxthorns and other weeds on the floor of these lakes.

What happened at the time was that the department—and I am not putting a slur on the public servants at all—would go out there and GPS document where these weeds were, but by the time anything was about to happen to them the water came down the system and they were all covered with water, so it seemed fairly pointless. If you are going to GPS something, why not just deal with it with the appropriate chemical treatment that is safe to use in the particular environment you are dealing with, and get on with the job?

In regard to the legislation, this government, under Premier Steven Marshall and minister David Speirs, have a very strong focus on practical environmental outcomes that protect our environment and benefit our communities. They are the two key messages that need to go together. If we are to have one, we need to have the other one. We made it clear before last year's election that communities wanted a reform of natural resources management. We understood that there were good parts of NRM delivery in communities, especially in the regions where a lot of us on this side live, but most people felt disempowered regarding decisions and that natural resources management was not working effectively for them.

As I have indicated, the system became centralised and heavily over-regulated and focused more on nice business plans rather than on real outcomes for landholders. We have introduced a back-to-basics approach to land, pest plant and animal species, and water management. The Landscape South Australia Bill aims to replace the Natural Resources Management Act with the new landscape South Australia act. With this legislation in place, we will have resilient landscapes that are both biodiverse and sustainable.

We want communities, especially our regional and rural communities, to have a greater say on the management of our natural resources, and this legislation will provide more security and confidence in the system. There has been extensive consultation across the state and right across the South Australian community, with local members attending sessions and hearing directly what needs to change as part of the reform. The bill puts people at the heart of landscapes and deserves bipartisan support. Part of the reform will include cost-of-living relief through the capping of land and water levies by CPI. This is another way the Marshall Liberal government is delivering real outcomes for all South Australians.

One of at least 300 promises that we made to the electorate at the last election was that we would make sure that this bill would come into parliament within a year of taking office, and we did this, with minister Speirs introducing the bill. We have worked closely with the minister throughout this extensive reform, and I commend the huge body of work that has gone into the creation of this new landmark environmental bill.

Under the legislation, there will be eight new regional landscape boards, plus Green Adelaide, which will be the metropolitan body. Each board will be elected, with three members from the local community elected democratically. That is a great outcome for community input. Four members will be appointed by the minister, but they will also come from within the community. Another great aspect of this new reform is that the boards will be decentralised, putting the decision-making authority in the hands of the community—right where it needs to be.

In regard to the metropolitan area, Green Adelaide will focus on seven key priorities. It will work towards Adelaide becoming one of the most ecologically vibrant and climate-resilient cities in the world. Another great part of this bill is that, when it becomes an act, it will take away the requirement for extensive bureaucratic business plan development and focus on outcomes for our natural environment. The bill will streamline and simplify a range of processes to remove the red tape that gets in the way of more effective on-ground management, which community people have long been hanging out for.

There is a broader definition of 'landscape' under natural resources than we have seen in past legislation. The scope extends to an integrated hills-to-sea approach and defines the landscape as being made up essentially of three components: the natural and physical environment, including coasts and seas adjacent to the state's land; natural resources, including land and soil, water resources, native vegetation and animals and ecosystems; and the different ways people value and interact with the environment, including environmental, social, cultural and economic values.

This expansion into the coasts and seas will make sure that these areas have the care and attention they deserve. We also recognise the immense value of more than 5,000 kilometres of pristine coastline, which we seek to protect through our broad and strong environmental reforms. This broadened focus will enable the impact of on-land practices on our coasts to be considered in an integrated hills-to-sea approach to natural resources management through decision-making and investment as appropriate.

As I have indicated, these reforms will provide a simpler, more accessible system that will be delivered through a legislative framework that is more focused on outcomes rather than on prescriptive processes, with processes to be set out in regulations or policy to enable them to evolve as circumstances change. These reforms will also simplify the planning load for boards, who will prepare high-level five-year regional landscape plans, but they will be focused on five priorities for regional areas and seven for Green Adelaide. That localised management will enable boards to set their own budget and business priorities unless a change to land or water levy arrangements is proposed or the plan is inconsistent with the regional landscape plan.

There will also be a change in how natural resources management outcomes are delivered, with grassroots grants and the landscape priorities fund increasing partnership opportunities. Boards have a clear mandate to enter financial partnerships to deliver on-ground projects. Also, the prescriptive consultation requirements will be replaced with contemporary and effective consultation and engagement arrangements to enable communities to be engaged in a manner that is right for them and for engagement practices to evolve over time.

Unnecessary administrative processes will be replaced—for example, the requirement to gazette a notice as to the basis of assessment of water taken each year, with a provision for a notice to remain in place unless the basis is changed. Certainly, there will be futureproofing of how information is shared, ensuring transparency and making the method for publishing information technology neutral.

In regard to proposed boundaries, new regional boundaries will more strongly align with connections between regional communities and local government boundaries and better enable communities to work together in managing landscapes. The proposed boundaries have been shaped and informed by the extensive consultation period, completed last year, involving (and I apologise for my pronunciation) Alinytjara Wilurara, SA Arid Lands, Eyre Peninsula, Northern and Yorke, Murraylands and Riverland, Hills and Fleurieu, Limestone Coast, Kangaroo Island and obviously Green Adelaide for the metropolitan board. I have talked about how those board members will be selected.

As part of this process, there will be a clearly defined role in assisting with the management of the impact of native animals. The new state government elected last year, and I as part of it, are very keen to see some better outcomes in the management of native animals. I say this as someone who has farmed country next to a national park, Ngarkat, when I leased some country out the back of Tintinara, and also as someone who is well aware of the impact of overabundant native species in my community and in neighbouring communities—for instance, in the seats of the members for MacKillop and Finniss. This includes not only the invasion of animals like kangaroos and emus, especially during the drought, but also the ever-present corella invasion.

I think it is odd that local governments are the principal people in charge of corella control. I think it should become a focus of the government so that there is a more defined reproach. Hopefully, we can work towards that because corellas are a huge problem. I have spoken in this house before about the Coorong council. Sometimes, I have not been entirely kind about the Coorong council, my home council, but with regard to corella control they have been on the front foot. From what I understand, they have relocated well over 20,000 corellas to a better place, and we will never see them again.

Too many communities and local government sectors are nervous about taking this management issue head on. From neighbouring communities and my community throughout the Fleurieu, I know the destruction these birds can cause, whether it is on bowling greens at Milang or particular trees—and usually quite significant trees—in communities like Langhorne Creek and Strathalbyn in the neighbouring electorate of Heysen, where corellas cause major destruction. We really need to put in place some decent control.

Everyone knows my little baby is the management of long-nosed fur seals. These fur seals need management. Sadly, I see on so many levels that people are nervous to take on this issue as it should be. I have advocated that there should be a sustainable management plan, including a sustainable harvest and, yes, I will use the word, a cull of these seals. I do not think it would be an extremely hard cull per annum. I talked about it before, and I have presented to the Natural Resources Committee, in terms of the invasion of these seals of the inland waters of the state in the Coorong area and Lake Alexandrina and Lake Albert. I note that these seals have invaded well up the River Murray around Murray Bridge.

They are not native to the area; the local Aboriginal population will tell you that. I note the work that Darrell Sumner has done in raising this issue, and he copped quite a bit of grief over this. Not only is he a local Aboriginal elder but he is also a Vietnam veteran, and I certainly take notice of what he has to say; not everyone does, but they should. It frustrates me that we live in a society that appears too timid to do the hard yards and do what needs to be done.

I am sure that management plans could be put in place, similar to what happens in some areas of the United States, where there is a program of sustainable harvest. These seals are rounded up, taken away and then sent to a better place for the betterment of the community. Some people say that we do not need to cull animals. Well, if we do not need to cull animals why do we have rabbit culls, kangaroo culls and fox culls and shoot deer from helicopters? It is a simple fact of life that, unless we manage these pests appropriately, we will be invaded and overrun, as we have been over time with a lot of these overabundant native species.

I hope that, with the passing of this legislation, in the future we will not be so timid on all levels to take the appropriate steps we need to manage our landscape appropriately and get real outcomes on the ground with regard to pest plants and animals to make sure that we can get those outcomes for environmental and community benefit.