Mr DULUK (Waite) (17:18): I, too, rise to support the member for King in her motion before the house and also to warmly reflect on the words of the deputy leader and, of course, the hard work of the Minister for Environment and Water, who is a passionate advocate for our parks and rangers. I also want to reflect on World Ranger Day and outline to the house how rangers have played an important role in my electorate of Waite.
I would like to echo the words of the member for King and, in particular, highlight the important role that rangers play in conserving a wide diversity of South Australia's native plants, animals and heritage within our parks and reserves. I am indeed very fortunate that there are a number of excellent parks and reserves within my electorate: the iconic Belair National Park, which is having a birthday in a week or two; Brownhill Creek Recreation Park; Blackwood Forest Recreation Park and Sturt Gorge Recreation Park, just to name a few.
Belair National Park is South Australia's oldest national park, second in Australia and eighth in the world. Belair is home to Old Government House, a significant heritage building. Also in the park is the State Flora centre, the oldest plant nursery in South Australia. The park remains one of the few relatively undisturbed areas of native vegetation in the Adelaide Hills region, making it an important refuge for native plants and animals.
The park is cared for by park rangers and the passionate Friends of Belair National Park, who work hard to conserve the park's flora and fauna. They have their meetings usually on the first Saturday of every month and they are always very well-attended meetings, and I enjoy going to them. I note that last week they had Professor Chris Daniels present to their group, who is strongly passionate about the work of the friends and conservation as well.
As part of a recent project to improve accessibility within the park, rangers have been involved in producing the new park map, which shows which trails are most easily traversed by wheelchairs, prams and people using walking sticks or frames. The map also indicates the location of accessible toilets and car parking to promote access for all to enjoy the park.
Over the past 12 months, over 120 events have been held within Belair National Park, including weddings, engagement parties, birthdays, trail running events, funerals, corporate Christmas parties, charity events, and community and private functions. This does not count the numerous casual picnics and sometimes large functions that occur throughout the park, especially around the adventure playground area.
It is estimated that approximately 500,000 people visit Belair National Park each year, making this park a much-loved jewel in the crown of our state's national park system. I will also put on the record my appreciation to Helen Hembest, who is a local artist in my area who is painting a picture for my electorate office of the Playford Lake, which of course is iconic in the park.
I would also like to highlight the beautiful Brownhill Creek Recreation Park and the work of the rangers and volunteers as well. Covering 51 hectares, I am told that Brownhill Creek was once a favourite camping, hunting and gathering ground for the Kaurna people. The recreation park features a steep-sided valley, populated with river red gums, some more than 300 years old, together with blue gum woodland. Rangers have been working with the Brownhill Creek Association, Friends of Brownhill Creek and many other community interest groups for many years to manage and improve this important and environmentally significant space.
I might also add that Brownhill Creek has historic significance, in terms of the parliament, as it was a favourite of Tom Price, who was of course Labor's first premier in South Australia and whose home was not far from what is now Brownhill Creek.
Going back to the rangers and the good work they do, rangers are working with the Brownhill Creek Association on the Wirraparinga Loop Trail, one of the park's scenic walks, which is so important. The work they do is supported through the Marshall Liberal government's June budget announcement of a $100,000 grant to assist in the work of updating the trail. This comes on the back of a $200,000 Green Army grant from the federal government. I commend the federal member for Boothby, Nicolle Flint, for her work in this grant funding.
The grant will assist the Brownhill Creek Association in their removal of significant weed infestations, making it easier for volunteer groups to undertake ongoing bushcare maintenance, together with revegetation and habitat restoration along sections of the trail. The development of the Wirraparinga Loop Trail was initiated by the Brownhill Creek Association, with the support of the Department for Environment and Water, the City of Mitcham and the Carrick Hill Trust.
In August this year, rangers assisted nearly 200 students, who gathered at Brownhill Creek Recreation Park to plant several thousand native plants to create more habitat in the park. This was the third year that such plantings have been undertaken. About 190 students attended, along with school staff, members of the Brownhill Creek Association and Friends of Brownhill Creek, as well as rangers and other staff from Natural Resources Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges.
The partnership was formed in 2016 to explore ways to engage local schools to help improve biodiversity in the Brownhill Creek Recreation Park. The schools involved include Mitcham Primary, Scotch College, Mercedes College, Unley High and Urrbrae Agricultural High School. The schools each adopt a section of Brownhill Creek that they work on to improve biodiversity. The project links schools with the community, providing outdoor learning opportunities and improving biodiversity.
Rangers are a trusted source of information for visitors to our parks, ensuring a safe and rewarding visitor experience while also playing a valuable role in managing our parks and caring for wildlife. Rangers also build positive partnerships with community and not-for-profit groups, which leads to more volunteer hours and financial support for our parks.
They work closely with friends of parks groups and other community and government groups to support bushcare activities, including activities such as corporate group and school group working bees. They undertake a diverse range of jobs in caring for our parks and are responsible for the overall maintenance of park facilities, ongoing trail maintenance, assisting visitors, working with researchers, fire management, pest control, responding to emergencies, educational activities for schools and interacting with the public.
We know that park visitation brings enormous benefits to the economy through attracting interstate and overseas tourists, which of course contributes towards a key commitment of the Marshall Liberal government—that is, driving economic development in our state. Importantly, rangers are at the front line of ensuring that these parks are managed well to protect the natural environment, as well as providing an enriching experience for visitors.
The new government approached the last election with a back-to-basics practical set of policies that would refocus and reset our state's environmental priorities. Our government is focused on hands-on services, rather than mere idealistic gestures. I commend the new Minister for Environment and Water, the member for Black, for his efforts in changing the culture of the department and the way the department interacts with the public.
Under the previous regime, we saw a minister who was not prepared to get his hands dirty, and not prepared to invest in community, but who was more than happy to make glib statements from the ivory tower he presided over. The new minister in this Marshall Liberal government, Minister Speirs, is out there and recently visited Brownhill Creek in my electorate. We also visited Wittunga Botanic Garden. As the local member for his area, I know that he is passionate about his community and those right across the state. We are truly grateful for his enthusiasm in ensuring practical conservation in our natural parks and wildlife.
The new government's environmental policies are on show and having tangible real benefits already, and we have a commitment to practical environmentalism. We want to restore, protect and enhance our natural and built environment. We also want to look at ways to open up our environment for greater access that allows South Australians as well as interstate and overseas tourists the ability to experience and enjoy it. Done sensitively, this will drive further economic benefits, which, as I said, is a key commitment of the new Marshall Liberal government.
The new government is focused on delivering improved environmental outcomes, not empty symbolism and token gestures but real, lasting results that the people of South Australia can see and experience.