In Parliament - September 15, 2015
Mr JAMIE PARKER (Balmain) [12.46 p.m.]: A few weeks ago, on the steps of this historic Parliament House, I accepted a petition of more than 10,000 signatures calling for the Parramatta Female Factory to be nominated for UNESCO World Heritage listing and for the site to be managed in line with the Burra Charter.
The Parramatta Female Factory, built between 1818 and 1821, is Australia's oldest existing female convict establishment and rivals Tasmania's Port Arthur in its heritage significance. The State of Tasmania has protected and enhanced Port Arthur, showcasing its heritage values and social history to the benefit of public knowledge and State tourism. The Cumberland Hospital precinct, which includes the Parramatta Female Factory, deserves the same protection and investment.
In this State the Government has installed UrbanGrowth NSW to build 3,900 apartments in buildings of up to 30 storeys as part of the 31-hectare Parramatta North Urban Transformation Program. The very heritage values and economic benefits that would come from a World Heritage listing, or even national heritage listing, are being threatened by the overdevelopment of this site. Significant changes need to be made to the proposed Parramatta North Urban Transformation Program, otherwise it will substantially monster the heritage buildings in the area and degrade their value and amenity.
It has been raised with me that there is an inherent conflict in UrbanGrowth NSW managing the Parramatta North Urban Transformation Program site. I again raise my concern that every member on the board of UrbanGrowth NSW has either a real estate or development background. The board of that organisation has shown insufficient diversity of expertise to advocate for heritage and social priorities at the highest level of decision-making. Encouragingly, the Federal Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, announced in August that the Female Factory precinct will be assessed for national heritage listing. The community is calling for a halt on the UrbanGrowth project until the national heritage listing has been assessed. At the same time, the Federal Government is being urged to fast-track the assessment.
The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union announced that it is imposing a green ban on the Female Factory site. This has special significance considering that 188 years ago the Parramatta Female Factory was the location of the first recorded industrial action in Australia. In 1827 the women at the factory went on strike for improved wages and conditions and forced a backdown from then Governor Brisbane. When accepting the petition of more than 10,000 signatures, I gave an undertaking to bring it into the Legislative Assembly. Unfortunately, the petition omitted one simple sentence: the preamble "To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the Legislative Assembly". I will be seeking the support of the Government, including my friend the member for Parramatta, who is here today, to ensure that the petition is brought on for discussion in this place. The petition demonstrates a significant amount of concern around this site. It is clear that we need to do everything possible to ensure that this magnificent heritage precinct is protected for all Australians.
The long-term view is often missing from major civic projects, as we have seen writ large in New South Wales. The community is concerned about whether short-term and medium-term profits for big developers, contractors and investors will trump the long-term goals of the community and the protection of this important heritage site. I congratulate and commend all those in the community who have expressed their concern and have demonstrated their care and commitment to heritage in the area. I commend particularly the energy and perseverance of the North Parramatta Residents Action Group, the Parramatta Female Factory Friends and all the community supporters who have dedicated themselves to protecting and enhancing this precious jewel in the heart of Western Sydney. The Greens will continue to work alongside the community to ensure the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct, one of Australia's historically significant sites, is preserved and protected for generations to come.
I have great memories of Parramatta pool, which I visited as a youth. It was always a wonderful place to visit. We must all stand up for our important heritage, whether it is in our electorate or around the State. The preservation of heritage in my electorate was what first motivated me to participate in the local community. I work towards the preservation of important and significant heritage in my local community and as a member of this Parliament I look around the State for the preservation of other important heritage areas. In my view, the Parramatta Female Factory is an area of significance without challenge. It is important that all members in this place stand up for heritage in our own electorates and around the State. I encourage the Government to reconsider its decision and to work with UrbanGrowth for a better outcome on this site. I have spoken to the member for Parramatta about this issue and I encourage him to work for the protection of this important heritage site.
Dr GEOFF LEE (Parramatta—Parliamentary Secretary) [12.51 p.m.]: I congratulate the member for Balmain on his interest in the North Parramatta heritage precinct. It is truly Australia's premier heritage precinct, comprising some of the best early colonial buildings in Australia which show the richness of Australia's European fabric. I can assure the member for Balmain that this Government will be delivering $100 million worth of investment in the adaptive reuse and refurbishment of those wonderful buildings, including the Female Factory and the Norma Parker Correctional Centre. These buildings will be open to the public in order for people to discover our early Australian history. I can assure the member for Balmain also that I will be working very hard to ensure that Parramatta is known for its wonderful heritage. This Government is driving tourism and the refurbishment and preservation of the North Parramatta heritage precinct.