Port Gawler Conservation Park

31 May 2017

Mr SPEIRS ( Bright ) ( 16:58 :01 ): I rise to speak on the motion that is before the house today:

That this house requests H is Excellency the Governor to make a proclamation under section 29(3)(a) of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 to abolish the Port Gawler Conservation Park.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Are you the lead speaker?

Mr SPEIRS: Yes, I am the lead speaker for the opposition. I wish to indicate that the opposition would like to give its wholehearted support to this motion. The motion is largely administrative in nature, but in many ways it gives effect to a very important environmental initiative, and I am certainly not afraid to congratulate the government on progressing the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary and the national park associated with that sanctuary. The sanctuary stretches along 60 kilometres of Adelaide's coastline and spans four local government areas: the City of Port Adelaide Enfield, the City of Salisbury, the City of Playford and the Adelaide Plains Council.

The sanctuary and national park, which work together, aim to protect migratory shorebird habitat, improve water quality entering Gulf St Vincent and protect the coastline, particularly samphire, dunes and mangrove environments, from the impact of a changing climate. Importantly and vitally, the most likely driving motivation for the creation of the national park and sanctuary is that it sits right on the southern end of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway—a vital migratory pathway that shorebirds use to travel from their Northern Hemisphere breeding grounds to their Southern Hemisphere feeding grounds. As such, the sanctuary forms a key feeding and roosting site for migratory birds that use that flyway every year.

In coming to understand the motion that is before the house today, and learning about the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary, I have learnt a huge amount about the flyway, its immense value to these migratory species and the huge importance of governments all across the world working together in a bipartisan and integrated way to protect the flyway. These birds are incredibly vulnerable as they make their lengthy passage across the world, often flying from as far away in the Northern Hemisphere as Siberia and Alaska, passing through 22 countries and ending up in the Southern Hemisphere in Australia and even through to New Zealand with some species in some circumstances.

The flyway is used by more than five million birds each year across the whole flyway, and around 27,000 of these birds end up in Adelaide in what has become known as the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary National Park. They call this area home for several months of the year. These are essentially their winter feeding grounds when it is winter in the Northern Hemisphere, which obviously is quite harsh. They are not necessarily able to survive the winter in those conditions, so they move down through the flyway and end up in their Southern Hemisphere feeding grounds.

As I just said, the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary is one of these very important feeding grounds. As the member for Ashford reminded us, they have to put on a considerable amount of weight during that feeding period to enable them to make that journey back north to their breeding grounds in those colder climates.

The sanctuary, whilst being one of Adelaide's longest continuous conservation areas, is home to 263 unique fauna and flora species. Of course, the sanctuary is not only valuable for the migratory species that were a significant impetus to its development and proclamation, as there are also many other important species of native fauna and flora that find themselves within the boundaries of the national park. There have been 263 fauna and flora species identified in that area to date.

In particular, the sanctuary helps to protect resident and migratory shorebirds. Shorebirds are seen as a particularly important part of this sanctuary. These birds include threatened species. There are many species there, not all of which are threatened but all of which will benefit from protection on that site. The threatened species in question include the curlew sandpiper, the ruddy turnstone, the red knot and the eastern curlew. They find themselves in a landscape that is also vital to South Australia's environment in that it will see productive mangroves, marine and coastal assets, river systems and many significant terrestrial species and ecological communities preserved and revitalised in the national park that is being created.

Turning specifically to the motion before the house today and the administrative nature of this motion, the fact that the new national park encompasses an existing protected area—that being the Port Gawler Conservation Park—requires a motion to come before both houses of the South Australian parliament to extinguish that conservation park because the existing protections that come with a national park will continue, so there is no need to duplicate that by having the Port Gawler Conservation Park remain in existence. The abolition of the Port Gawler Conservation Park will allow that area to be reconstituted as an addition to the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary National Park.

The Port Gawler Conservation Park itself has been an important ecological environment for many years, which has been protected. I had the opportunity to visit that site a couple of weeks ago and see its valuable mangrove landscape in particular. It is obviously home to many of the species I just mentioned, both those migratory species and the threatened local species. The Port Gawler Conservation Park is located centrally within the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary and so forms a very important part. It will not be forgotten simply because it is going to be wound into the new national park. In fact, it is being held out as a very key part of that landscape that is to be protected.

The government advises that the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary and the new national park have received support from the general community around that area—local government and the local Kaurna people, as well as migrant and school communities in that region. It is also worth mentioning that the addition of land to the park does not require the approval of parliament and will proceed once parliament has considered the excision of the Port Gawler Conservation Park. It will proceed automatically once the Port Gawler Conservation Park is wound up.

In conclusion, I would like to once again reiterate the opposition's strong support for this policy and also my personal support. I would like to thank the minister and his department for arranging for me and a staff member to go to the Northern Plains and visit those coastal areas that will form part of the bird sanctuary. It was great to be able to go there a couple of weeks back. I am grateful for the assistance of DEWNR staff, particularly Jason Irving and Arkellah Irving, who provided me with a guided tour of the area. I learned a lot on that occasion. With that, I commend this motion to the house and once again reiterate the opposition's support.