November 26, 2013  |  Second Reading

Parks and Crown Land Legislation Amendments Bill 2013

Mr HOWARD (Ballarat East)— I am pleased to add some comments with respect to the Parks and Crown Land Legislation Amendment Bill 2013, which is before the house. As we have heard from other speakers, there are several aspects to this bill. Part of it relates to the revocation of three parcels of Crown land, one of which is of particular interest to me — the part that relates to the Ballarat West employment zone. I will start by talking about that, because as a resident of Ballarat and one of the MPs supporting the Ballarat area I think it is necessary to ensure that we keep on track with plans to build employment opportunities for Ballarat.

Under the Bracks and Brumby Labor governments, particularly in the time of the Brumby Labor government, the concept of the Ballarat West employment zone was developed. The Ballarat City Council recognised that in order to meet Ballarat’s future employment needs we needed more industrial land, and the site of the present Ballarat airport area was considered to be an important site to develop for this purpose.

An area of 438 hectares of Crown land associated with the Ballarat airport is presently required to be used for airport purposes, but the revocation allows it to have more flexible uses and passes it to the management of the City of Ballarat. This is a sensible way of ensuring we can get moving with this plan for the Ballarat West employment zone.

As we have heard from other speakers, this zone is envisaged to provide for the employment of around 9000 people over coming years, with $5 billion in economic return annually, so clearly this is very important to the people of Ballarat. This zone comes on the back of work the former government did with the University of Ballarat Technology Park, where we now have more than 1000 people employed in high-tech areas. The relocation of the State Revenue Office to the technology park in Ballarat was clearly an important matter. That park is developing and offers continuing opportunity for the development of high-tech industry.

The Ballarat employment zone is a different type of development. It is close to the Western Highway and so provides great opportunity for vehicle access, and the plan for an intermodal hub is in place and has been supported by a federal government grant of $9.1 million announced earlier this year by what was then the federal Labor government. That is clearly going to help there. The fact that there is an airport on site and also a rail line that goes into the site means there are opportunities for all forms of transport — aviation, road and rail transport — to operate out of the site.

There are also exciting plans to develop the site with a bioenergy co-generation plant. This co-generation plant in the park is a particularly exciting concept in terms of the park’s development.

It will involve waste from municipal origins as well as waste or by-products from the agricultural areas around Ballarat — biomass from those areas — being brought to the co-generation plant to produce not just electricity but also heat to meet the needs of some of the industries in the employment zone and also possibly to meet needs outside the employment zone in the future. This is an exciting opportunity. There are also plans for logistics industries, research and development industries, wholesale trading, a mining sector and equipment industries, which are already in Ballarat. There is therefore a great range of industries that can be attracted to this area.

As I said, the zone was under way under the Brumby Labor government, and some people would be disappointed that the plans to develop this site are advancing a little more slowly than we would like.

We would like to see them advancing at a greater rate because there are some industries that would have already liked to have moved on site but have not been able to, and we may have lost some of those opportunities. We need this bill to go forward, and we need further energy to come from this government to support the plan so that we can see those industries move in there sooner rather than later and so we can get this exciting opportunity up and running. I hope that will be the case in the very near future.

We know there are other issues associated with the bill, including the revocation of a reservation associated with the Bendigo Hospital. I am not sure why it is taking place so late; this is another project that should have been delivered by now. Some aspects of the development of the Bendigo Hospital project seem to be taking place slower than would have been hoped. There are also the plans for the East Werribee employment precinct.

The other parts of this bill relate to adding some land to our national parks, and I notice that amongst those national parks is the Brisbane Ranges National Park. Some 22 hectares are to be added to the Brisbane Ranges National Park, which is in my electorate. That is encouraging, but as the lead speaker for the opposition, the member for Bellarine, pointed out, we have concerns about the way this government manages its national parks. We know members of The Nationals are never supportive of the creation of national parks. It seems that they try to denigrate the value of our national parks at every opportunity.

Of course we know there is a push to allow cattle back in the Alpine National Park, and there is a lack of appreciation of the environmental values of our national parks under this government. But there are at least signs of opportunities which we would love to see greatly enhanced through better support for our national park system and the provision rather than the loss of more staff in the Department of Environment and Primary Industries. I hope that can continue — if not under this government, then under a future Labor government.

I am certainly pleased to see that under this bill we are taking further steps with the Ballarat West employment zone, as I have identified. I hope that we can see the Ballarat West employment zone developing rapidly to provide employment opportunities for the people of Ballarat and the region in the future. I look forward to that taking place.