Bills: Crown Land Management (Section 78b Leases) Amendment Bill

Thursday November 14, 2019

Mr BELL (Mount Gambier) (15:59): I rise to make a brief contribution on this legislation and also acknowledge the work the Hon. Michelle Lensink has contributed to this policy position. In fact, if we go back to when I was campaigning in around 2013, the Hon. Michelle Lensink was paired with the seat of Mount Gambier and so visited on numerous occasions and certainly listened to the concerns of our local community on a range of issues.

Shacks and termination of leases when the last surviving person on that lease passes away were certainly issues which we took seriously and which helped form a policy position within the Liberal Party on changing the current situation had we won the 2014 state election. When visiting the area when I was an outdoor education teacher, there was nothing better than canoeing down the Glenelg River with a bunch of students. You would normally start up near Dartmoor and three or four days later you would be canoeing and your arms would be tired after very little sleep on a bit of foam mattress.

When you got around to Reedy Creek and Donovans, the shacks were always a welcome sight because they signalled that you were very close to Nelson and finishing the journey. It has certainly been a part of my life in the time I have spent in Mount Gambier and, I know, in the lives of many other people whose family either owns a shack or who know people who own a shack or even just visit and take photographs of the structures there. I certainly welcome this introduction by the Minister for Environment, David Speirs, to ensure that the Glenelg River shacks will remain in place.

It is quite an interesting development to watch a previous government's policy position and the impact it has on families and the outcomes of it. I hope that in future we do not develop policy positions that really try to grind people down into submission and achieve an outcome through what I would say would be a war of attrition versus common-sense policy and actually listening to the community you are meant to represent. The outcome of a war of attrition is the state that we see at the moment, where some of the shacks have been razed because the last person on the lease is deceased.

That can be quite distressing for other family members who are not only burying their grandfather, their father, their loved one, but then are incurring a massive cost on top of a funeral expense to remove the family shack down on the river, and some of those costs can be quite large. Some people do not have $25,000 on top of a funeral expense to pay that. I hope that in future, if decisions like this are to be made, a more sensible approach is taken versus a war of attrition and grinding people down to the situation we have at the moment.

Many of those shacks have been passed down from generation to generation. This legislation has been hard fought, but it now gives some certainty to the owners of those shacks and the families of those shacks that they will need to bring them up to code and up to standard but that the money they invest will not be wasted and can be enjoyed for generations to come. As I said, owners have been stuck in limbo for many years, and this has obviously caused a big issue, but I want to talk about some of the passionate people.

I need to acknowledge the District Council of Grant, Mayor Richard Sage and the previous CEO Trevor Smart, who helped facilitate the organisation of shack owners and, in fact, helped them incorporate into an associated body, the Glenelg River Shack Owners Association, so that they could structure themselves in such a way that their voice could be heard. So congratulations to Trevor Smart, the former CEO, Mayor Richard Sage and all councillors and council staff. Like my office, I am sure they have been regularly contacted by shack owners wanting to know what is occurring and when it is occurring.

I note it is complex legislation and it is pleasing to see a minister with resolve to push through difficult issues, instead of taking the easy road or shirking some of those issues. He is actually trying to work with his department on finding sensible solutions so that he and the government truly are representing the people of South Australia. Some of those people who told me their stories are people like the Telford family, the Gazzard family, the Holmes family, the Matthews family, as well as Brett Orr, who is the president of the association, and Kim Cawthorne.

Allowing renewable and transferable tenure under the proposed legislation gives shack owners a greater degree of autonomy and surety. This legislation also gives strong incentives for the owners to invest in their structures and bring them up to current safety and environmental standards, which is important particularly for those on the Glenelg River. It was pleasing to see that this was a continued commitment from the 2014 campaign into the 2018 campaign and it is being finally implemented in this term of government. I hope if parliament is going to be prorogued that this passes the upper house because people have waited for a very long time, 18 years in some instances, for this to occur.

The other very pleasing thing from a local member's point of view is the openness of minister Speirs on this issue. Every time I have rung his office or spoken to him, he has been open and honest. One of the first things he undertook was to put a moratorium on the automatic termination of shack leases. There were a number of families in the region who had a name on the lease of someone very elderly and, in fact, some people have passed away. But that moratorium gave those families a level of comfort and assurance that this government was looking out for them and aiming to implement the intent of the promise, even though it was going to take a long time or a period of time for the legislation to come before parliament and then hopefully be passed.

I would like to congratulate formally people like Brett Orr and Kim Cawthorne from the Glenelg River Shack Owners Association, who have worked very hard for many years both with the Hon. Michelle Lensink and minister Speirs, to keep this issue on the state government's radar. For the people who have waited years and years to see this result, I would like to assure them that we are now at the stage where this is changing the legislation. I sincerely thank the current Liberal government for honouring their commitment at the 2014 and 2018 elections to have this legislation passed. With that, I thank the current government and I thank all those people who have campaigned for a long time. May this pass both houses in a speedy fashion.