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Thursday, 31 July 2003Printer Friendly Version

HAVING grown up on the Mornington Peninsula I am passionate about the future of areas such as Point Nepean, Gunnamatta Beach and Devilbend.

Environmental issues such as these are exactly what drew me into Parliament.

Although Point Nepean is complex, I am fighting with every fibre to ensure - and I firmly believe - that there will be a simple solution: No housing, public ownership and, hopefully, world class environmental studies for students from the peninsula.

There are accordingly a number of proposals for public ownership which, I believe, represent outstanding ways to achieve this outcome for Point Nepean, be they museums, marine campuses - or environmental education for our children.

In this context Will Baillieu (The Mail 24/7/03) made an accusation that by not exclusively supporting the bid his family is involved in, I was not supporting public ownership. This is wrong and an uncharacteristic slur.

I am squarely for public ownership, but what I am not willing to do is to exclusively support the Baillieu bid over other worthy forms of public ownership.

I commend the bid, but it should be remembered that it is just one of a series of worthy public educational bids and that the Baillieu bid also seeks to develop conferencing, a restaurant and three-star accommodation.

In that context I have unashamedly encouraged all public ownership and marine educational proposals.

That is why I was disappointed in seeing one such proposal by La Trobe to create a marine centre attacked by those supporting a rival community bid.

I hope that any one form of public ownership and education will be acceptable to all of us, and that no bidding party will attack another in the same way again.

What matters is that we protect the land for the next 40, 100 and 200 years and any of a number of good outcomes would achieve this.

After working with the Prime Minister (John Howard) and his chief of staff, I am convinced that we will succeed in achieving that protection and in implementing the three core principles of the community master plan:

· protection of the natural and built environment;

· public ownership through a public trust, tier of government or public educational institution; and

· a sustainable use such as marine or environmental education.

What are the impediments to this widely shared vision? In fact there are very few impediments, and in pursuit of such a vision the Commonwealth has so far committed to:

· Ban residential housing on Point Nepean for all time;

· Clean-up all unexploded ordinances and give 205 hectares of clifftop land to the state for a national park;

· Give the stunning 20 hectares of clifftop land at Police Point to the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council to create one of Australia’s great public parks; and

· Spend $4 million on the restoration of the Norris Barracks and heritage precinct (announced in October 2001).

It is important to remember that, contrary to the impression given on these pages last week, the community reference group and Environment Victoria, the state’s peak environment body, officially welcomed the first three steps as a faithful implementation of the master plan when they were announced in March because they guaranteed public ownership.

It is also important to remember that the Heritage Working Group has announced that the $4 million for the restoration works will complete all priority one and two tasks on the heritage site.

There is of course one more element to resolve the future of the Norris Barracks.

Despite the fact that Mr Bracks refused a previous free offer for 100 per cent of the barracks precinct and has also walked away from an express election promise to pay for the area, we are nevertheless close to resolving the future of the heritage precinct.

Apart from the big developers, almost all share the vision of the Baillieu bid which proposes using the precinct to help educate primary, secondary, tertiary and disabled students about environmental matters.

The only debate is on which of the public ownership models would best achieve this outcome.

In that context I believe it is ridiculous to claim that a trust such as the Sydney Harbour Trust is not a form of public ownership. Indeed, the Save Devilbend Group only last Saturday proposed exact exactly this model as one possible outcome for Devilbend.

It is equally ridiculous to claim that a public educational institution such as public marine campus is not public simply because it is educational.

Indeed the two leading global examples cited in the Baillieu bid as models for Point Nepean, the Bodega Marine Laboratories in California and the Scripps Institute in California are both situated on an manage delicate coastal site owned in public trust by the University of California.

Any of these forms of public ownership lip would work and have worked around the world.

In the end, despite all the heat, I believe that there will be one of Australia’s great public parks at Point Nepean and some form of public marine education.

I accept full responsibility in fighting for such an outcome. The buck stops with me on this and I happily shoulder that responsibility.

More importantly, there are many other people of good faith who have worked to that same end and I have no doubt that they will be successful in preserving the land and providing opportunities for educating our children and grand children about the unique coastal and marine environmerit at Point Nepean.

By Greg Hunt
Mornington Peninsula Mail

* Grey Hunt is the Federal Member for Flinders.

* The "Baillieu bid" referred by Mr Hunt is an expression, interest lodged by the Victorian National Parks Association in and National Trust public supported by Will Baillieu’s sister Kate Baillieu - Ed.

Greg Hunt M.P.  |  tel: 03-5979 3188  |  fax: 03-5979 3034
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