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NSW Parliament Question Time 26th September

27 September 2019

Ms FELICITY WILSON (North Shore) (15:21): My question is addressed to the Minister for Energy and Environment. Will the Minister update the House on conservation and fundraising efforts to protect threatened and endangered species?

Mr MATT KEAN (Hornsby—Minister for Energy and Environment) (15:21): I thank the member for her question. I also thank her for hosting me in her electorate this morning to welcome the newest members of the Taronga Park Zoo family, five capybaras all the way from South America. I am happy to update the House that Pedro, Sanchez, Carlos, Guillermo and Rodney—that very traditional South American name—are settling into their new environment very well. Mr Speaker, you would know that the capybara is the world's largest guinea pig. Unlike members opposite they are cute, they are cuddly and they are very charismatic.

[An Opposition member interjected.]

Mr MATT KEAN: What do they eat? You will have to read the press release, but they are very efficient. With the weather hotting up and the school holidays upon us, I encourage everyone to get down to Taronga Zoo and check out the capybara enclosure that has just opened. There is so much more happening at the zoo these school holidays. I am happy to update the House about the school holiday adventure program. That is open for kids from 5-10 years. I encourage everyone who has kids of that age to get in early and register before the Perrottet family takes up all the spots.

Mr Dominic Perrottet: Where's my zoo pass?

Mr MATT KEAN: We are working on that. For budding zoologists—I know there are a few in the House—we have got the Zookeeper for a Day program. That gives you an opportunity to shadow a zookeeper around Taronga Zoo just for the day. It is a unique experience. I know the member for Hawkesbury is very excited about this opportunity. That is not all that is happening at the zoo these school holidays. If one day at the zoo is not enough, you can stay overnight as part of the Roar and Snore program. I know the wife of the member for Baulkham Hills gets to experience that every night of the week. However, you can go to the zoo, stay overnight, and wake up and hear the beautiful sounds of lions, tigers and, now, capybaras. There is so much going on these school holidays at Taronga Zoo—

Ms Sophie Cotsis: It is too expensive.

Mr MATT KEAN: I will organise you a pass. The zoo is more than a place just to have a good time. In fact, it is leading the way when it comes to protecting our biodiversity and our environment. The zoo is doing amazing work in partnership with the Government.

I will take this opportunity to talk about the Saving Our Species program. It is the biggest single investment in protecting our threatened and endangered species in the nation. It is a $100 million investment. Without this program in partnership with Taronga Zoo, we would not have saved the Bellingen River snapping turtle or the southern corroboree frog. This program is making a huge difference in New South Wales, ensuring that we leave our planet in a better state for our kids than we found it. We are doing great work in protecting the southern corroboree frog. We are also doing some amazing things with the rewilding program. That is creating feral predator-free areas in our national parks.

We are reintroducing native animals that have not been seen in their natural environment in some cases for over a century. We are getting rid of the ferals and introducing native animals back into their natural environment. I look forward to going to western New South Wales. I will invite the member for Barwon when we go to Sturt National Park to release 10 bilbies that have been bred at Taronga Zoo. We are putting them back into the Sturt National Park, which has not seen that beautiful animal for at least 100 years.

Mr Dominic Perrottet: He'll shoot them.

Mr MATT KEAN: They are a protected species, I will let the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party know. The work at the zoo is important. It is not just about protecting our threatened species and coming along and having a great time. I urge all members to invite their constituents along to visit. The most important work the zoo does is its education program to inspire every citizen in the State to care about our environment and protect it into the future. We are doing some amazing work at Taronga Zoo and I encourage everyone to get along.

Ms Janelle Saffin: What about the koalas in Braemar Forest?

Mr MATT KEAN: The koalas are such important iconic animals. This is why we have the Koala Strategy. [Extension of time]

The SPEAKER: It is the last question on a Thursday. We admire the Minister for being entertaining and for his oratory skills, but the general level of noise makes it difficult to hear him. It is primarily coming from Government members. I ask that the level of noise be reduced.

Mr MATT KEAN: That is an excellent ruling. The zoo does incredibly important work but it does not do it alone. It does it with the support of many great donors. Over the past five years more than $70 million worth of donations have been made by private citizens to the zoo. They do not come in Aldi bags. It is important to remember that not all people who care about protecting threatened species donate to the zoo. In fact, some donations to protect threatened species actually do more harm than good—just ask Jonathan Yee. Never before has a donation made a species more threatened than Mr Yee's donation. That brings me to the Leader of the Opposition.

Ms Sophie Cotsis: Point of order: It is relevance under Standing Order 129. We want to hear about protected species.

The SPEAKER: I am happy for the Minister to continue. The last question on a Thursday has a certain licence. The Minister has been highly relevant to the question up to this point.

Mr MATT KEAN: Never before has a single donation made a species more threatened. That brings me to the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr Greg Warren: Point of order—

Mr MATT KEAN: I have a picture of her here in her natural environment, the Emperor's Garden.

The SPEAKER: The Clerk will stop the clock. What is the point of order?

Mr Greg Warren: It is under Standing Order 73 .

The SPEAKER: There is no point of order. The member will resume his seat. The Minister has the call.

Mr MATT KEAN: It is important to remind members and those in the galleries that not all threatened species live in zoos. That is exactly the case with those opposite, because no-one is more threatened in this State than the Leader of the Opposition. She may be earnest, but she is not honest.

Ms Yasmin Catley: Point of order—

The SPEAKER: I am happy to stop the clock, but if the point of order is under Standing Order 73 I will ask the Minister to resist from making comments of that nature.

Ms Yasmin Catley: Thank you very much.

The SPEAKER: The Minister's time has expired.