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Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP

Interview - ABC 702, Sally Loane
Wednesday, 3 September 2003

Subject: Launch of Visionary Plan to Revitalise Sydney Harbour Trust Landmark Sites

Compere: We've been talking for quite some months now, probably years, about what to do with some of the government land around Sydney Harbour.

And the Harbour Trust has seven sites and most of the population of New South Wales has had a chance over the last few months to have their say as to what might happen with these particular sites.

They're very familiar to Sydneysiders I think - the former School of Artillery on North Head, the former Defence land at Middle Head, Georges Heights, Charter Bay in Mosman, Woolwich Dock in the Parklands down there, Cockatoo Island and Snapper Island, Macquarie Light Station and the former Marine Biological Station at Watson's Bay. And everybody's had their say on what they want to see there from hotel developments to just parkland.

Joining me on the line is the Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp. Dr Kemp, good morning.

David Kemp: Good morning, Sally.

Compere: Is this plan finally sort of coming to fruition now?

David Kemp: Well it is. This is a very exciting day really, to see finally the outcome of all that public consultation. The Sydney Harbour Federation Trust, I think, has done a wonderful job in bringing this plan together. And what they've set out in it is a vision for each of the seven sites.

They'll be supplemented by much more detailed precinct plans that again the community will have a chance to look at and comment on before they're finally put into effect.

But what we've now got before us is the Federation Trust’s best judgments and conclusions about how to make the most exciting use of the seven sites.

Compere: And it covers a big area, doesn't it, about 140 hectares, if you add it all up?

David Kemp: It does. It's a very substantial area around Sydney Harbour and of course, it's of interest I think not only to Sydneysiders themselves but to the many tourists who come to Sydney and all Australians. Because some of these sites are very significant in the whole history of Australia like the Cockatoo Island site, for example, has got some convict heritage which, if we ever move forward to world heritage listing for convict sites would certainly be part of that listing.

So that's very important. And of course up on Georges Heights and Middle Head there are some Aboriginal cultural sites which I think really need to be brought together so people can see just what the wonderful Aboriginal heritage around Sydney Harbour has been.

Compere: David Kemp, this is former Commonwealth land. Has the Commonwealth had much say in what will happen on these sites?

David Kemp: Well it is former Defence land and the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust is a Commonwealth instrumentality, so the Commonwealth in fact has taken the key running in presenting these sites now to the people of Sydney. And I think people realise that the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust in the way it's worked has set standards for public consultation and community involvement.

And in the last Federal budget, we allocated $115 million to the restoration of these sites. So that's a very significant commitment from the Howard Government to the people of Sydney and Australia.

Compere: So those sites will get that $115 million. It will be soaked up really quickly, I'd imagine.

David Kemp: Well that'll be supplemented by further funds that will come in from the various uses of this land.

Compere: Right.

David Kemp: And I would think that over the next eight years we'll see something like $200 million invested in the preparation of these sites. Some of them require restoration for the historic buildings and facilities. Some of the land on Cockatoo Island needs to be restored after industrial use so that the public can access it easily.

But the really exciting thing, I think, is that many of these sites have been closed off for a long time to the public and now they'll be open to people and they'll be able to picnic there and enjoy them and see views of Sydney that perhaps they've never seen before.

Compere: Did you have a view or an opinion as a Minister about what should happen to the majority of these sites? I mean did you think, well yes, let's have a mixed I suppose use - a little bit of revenue raising plus parkland. Do you think the balance is right at the moment?

David Kemp: Well it seems to me that the balance is right. The decisions have been made really in the light of the public consultations. I think this has been a process by which the communities around Sydney have had a chance to develop their own vision for these sites and to say how they'd like to be presented to the world. And they've been weighed against the need to be able to maintain these sites on an on-going basis. And so obviously there are elements of fund raising involved from some of the activities.

But on the whole these sites will be very accessible to everybody and the revenue that the trust will get will be from cafes and small maritime businesses for servicing the boating public of Sydney.

So I think it strikes a very good balance. But there will be an opportunity as each of the precinct sites are developed for people to have yet another say in it.

Compere: Will there be things like hotels and flat developments, that kind of thing? Or has that been ruled out completely?

David Kemp: Oh look, we've completely ruled out any kind of housing developments. In relation to Cockatoo Island, there are decisions I think to be made as to how this landmark area is going to be fully developed. The vision that's outlined in today's plan looks at the return of maritime activity to the Island, on a small scale of course, the opening of the heritage.

But there clearly are areas there which would be very important in the whole tourist makeup of Sydney Harbour. And I'm sure that there'll be a lot of discussion about the kind of developments that might be now possible on some of the land which has been carved out for industrial activity in the past.

Compere: What will be the timetable on these sites? When will the first one be open, for example?

David Kemp: Well people can visit these sites now on a casual basis and from time to time. These sites are going to be progressively transformed over the next eight years. And the Sydney Harbour Trust is very keen to have people come to them at the earliest possible moment because of course the more people see them, the more support there'll be for the kinds of work that will be necessary to present them properly to the world.

Compere: All right, David Kemp, thanks for your time this morning.

David Kemp: Thanks very much, Sally, good to speak to you.

Compere: Yes, that's the Federal Environment and Heritage Minister, Dr David Kemp talking about, well, the sign off really of that Harbour land, 140 hectares of prime Harbour foreshore land that has been under consultation for the last two years. Some of you may have even had your say in what you think should happen on those sites.

And wonderful sites of course. Some of them very familiar to some of us, and others, we hadn't seen at all. Watsons Bay, the former Marine Biological Station, for example. There's a house at the southern end of Camp Cove which will be restored and this could be used for a writer, scientist, artist in residence, open occasionally for public viewing. This is all contained in the Minister's press release this morning.

Cockatoo Island, for example, the Minister was just talking about that - boat building, repairs, storage, possibly a dry dock operating there. Snapper Island, smallest island in the Harbour. It'll be restored and it will continue to operate maritime activities for cadets, TAFE courses and the youth groups. Lots and lots of very interesting public space that's going to be opened up to us, which will be very, very exciting when it all starts to fall in place.


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