Private Members’ Statement
Mr ANOULACK CHANTHIVONG (Macquarie Fields) [6.22 p.m.]: I speak tonight about a very important part of my electorate of Macquarie Fields, that is, the Scenic Hills. Campbelltown and the Macarthur region are blessed with natural beauty, from the Georges River to the Australian Botanic Garden at Mount Annan and, of course, the picturesque Scenic Hills. The Scenic Hills not only provides a unique and beautiful backdrop to the city of Campbelltown, it has major heritage significance and provides valuable open space for our growing and vibrant community. Its environmental rural landscape character is unique in metropolitan Sydney and provides a much-needed and greatly valued environmental buffer from encroaching development.
For as long as I can remember, the Campbelltown community has been united in its opposition to the development of the hills. In fact, it is one of the very few issues that has united Campbelltown City Council, regardless of political allegiances. However, over the years various development proposals have been suggested for the Scenic Hills. On every occasion they have been rejected, such is the value our community has placed on protecting the Scenic Hills. The fight to protect the hills has been long and hard and it is not over yet. As the member for Macquarie Fields, I will continue the fight to protect this valuable natural asset on behalf of our community. My colleague the member for Campbelltown, Greg Warren, is in this fight with me.
I am appalled by the decision of the Minister for Planning to allow a proposal to build a 136,000-plot cemetery on the site to go on public exhibition. If ever there was a decision that showed how out of touch a Minister is with community opinion, this is it. I am also appalled to learn that the Minister's departmental website states that before the application can go on exhibition further information will be required from the applicant, including investigation of the heritage significance and scenic value of the site. Surely this information, which is such an integral aspect of the value of the Scenic Hills, should have been provided before approval to go to public exhibition was granted. Given that this information is yet to be provided, I question how extensive and thorough the gateway process has been in this instance.
I remain strongly opposed to any development of the Scenic Hills and will be activating the community to join me in calling for the ongoing protection of this important site both now and into the future. We will not let our hearts be swayed by any proposal under any circumstances to turn the "lungs of Campbelltown" into anything other than protected open space now and in the future. I inform the House that I have written and hand delivered a letter to the Minister for Planning requesting that the decision to allow the proposal to proceed to public exhibition be immediately reversed. The so-called "important conditions" referred to in the department's media release are surely of crucial importance and when investigated will clearly reinforce the tremendous value of the Scenic Hills for past, current and future generations in the Campbelltown-Macarthur region. I will continue to work closely with our community to save our Scenic Hills, as our unique heritage and valuable open space must be protected. The hills must be protected and I and my community will save this valuable open space for future generations.