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Green Open Spaces

12 May 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (18:09): I thank the Labor Party for their support of this disallowance. While this is my first time speaking to this disallowance in former member, the Hon. Mark Parnell's name, members will note, as stated by the Hon. Emily Bourke, that this is the seventh time that this disallowance has been moved—the seventh time. I am hopeful that this will be the last time the Legislative Council agrees to disallow the regulation that allows the raiding of the open space fund, otherwise known as the Planning and Development Fund, for the purposes of general administration.

It seems extraordinary to me that the government continues to refuse to accept the will of this chamber and has done so six times now. I think it sets a very dangerous precedent for our democracy when the upper house knocks back a piece of legislation and the government just ploughs ahead and says, 'Well, we don't care what they say. We are just going to go ahead and do what we want.'

The true purpose of this fund is to provide community facilities such as public parks, gardens, footpaths and cycle paths. It is not intended for general administration. That was never the intended focus of this fund. The fund is primarily comprised of cash contributions from developers in lieu of them providing physical land for public open space. The money goes into a pool and it is allocated to appropriate projects that help build our common public spaces, those that actually benefit the whole community.

It is really concerning to us in the Greens that during a time when we have parks and recreational areas that we need to support to achieve community health and wellbeing, the government is diverting those funds away, raiding this fund to put them into general administration, and, in particular, the administration of a government agency that is totally inappropriate and totally at odds with the intention of this scheme.

I might say, in concluding my remarks, that during COVID-19, many members of the community have relied on our public green space as a way of improving their community health and wellbeing. I think it is a terrible lack of leadership to see this fund being squandered in this way, and I urge the government to think again.