Rob Stokes – NSW Parliament Speech as noted in the Legislative Assembly Hansard – 02 May 2018
Mr ROB STOKES Pittwater
Minister for Education
Today I congratulate the Palm Beach and Whale Beach Association on reaching its one hundredth anniversary of service to the local community this year. This not-for-profit volunteer residents group is a tireless advocate for the local community and its wonderful, unique and special sylvan environment. The men and women who make up the association work hard to defend and nurture the stretch of peninsula from Whale Beach to Barrenjoey Headland on Sydney’s northern beaches and the extraordinary waters in between—it is my understanding that the waters of Broken Bay is the only place in the world where five bodies of water meet, in an extraordinary display of natural beauty. With the Pacific Ocean to the east and the Pittwater to the west, this is a truly exceptional corner of outer metropolitan Sydney where residents and members of the public can enjoy the spectacular natural beauty of the oceans, beaches and bushland and be part of the fun, outgoing and strongly bonded local community with an active social conscience and sense of public service.
Originally called the Palm Beach Progress Association when it was established in 1918, the group became the Palm Beach Association in 1944. It then amalgamated with the Whale Beach Preservation Society in 1998 to become the Palm Beach and Whale Beach Association in 2005. The association was instrumental in the establishment of Palm Beach’s Governor Phillip Park—a stretch of green space nestled on the thin tongue of land bounded by the ocean beach, Barrenjoey Headland and the Pittwater—and for its maintenance, improvement and protection ever since. In 1925, the association proposed that this strip of land become a public park and, with the blessing of the local council, Governor Phillip Park was born. Today the park is an invaluable public asset where people from all walks of life and different communities can savour the picturesque surroundings of Palm Beach and have a picnic or barbecue, and where children can play in the truly outstanding playground.
The term “recreational area” is a fairly common phrase used to describe parks and open green spaces, but Governor Phillip Park is a place that really grasps the core meaning of “re-creation”. This is a place where you can bask in the untrammelled glory of nature and find refreshment and renewal of body, mind and spirit. The Palm Beach and Whale Beach Association is very proud, passionate and protective of this park. It is but one of the association’s many wonderful achievements over the past century of active service for our community. In 1922, the association pushed for repairs to Sunrise Road, an important residential thoroughfare, paying the princely sum of £26 3s to ensure the works were completed. In 1920, it fought to get polling booths set up in Palm Beach, which provided a vital outlet of democratic expression for the local community. It has worked to reclaim and protect the sand dunes, opposed off-shore sand mining and fought on many occasions to defend the character, amenity and natural environment of the local area. Indeed, the core objectives of the Palm Beach and Whale Beach Association are—as stated in its mission statement—to “protect and enhance the natural beauty of the area and protect its residential amenity”.
Since its inception, association members have been passionate and ferocious advocates for the natural environment the local community loves and cherishes. They recognise that protecting our natural environment is foundational to the wellbeing of the local community and the local economy. One only has to climb to the top of Barrenjoey Headland and look down on the ocean, beaches and bushland that make this area so special to realise how much poorer we would be if this were degraded or destroyed. The Palm Beach and Whale Beach Association’s commitment to protecting and improving local amenity has also been key to making this area such a wonderful place in which to live and to visit. Local communities can often become anxious about growth, and this is understandable. We can see countless past examples of how growth that is poorly managed can have significant negative impact, and not be the equivalent of human progress and of making life better for everyone. It is absolutely vital that, when we do grow as a local community, as a city, state and nation, we ensure that the public first and foremost reap the benefits of that growth. That growth should be done in a way that recognises an area’s ecology, community and society.
It is through the work of the Palm Beach and Whale Beach Association, and other organisations like it, that we can ensure local communities have their say loudly and clearly on decisions that affect them. The association’s century of community advocacy has ensured that the best interests of their local community are front of mind with decision-makers at all times. My local community lives and thrives on our spirit of volunteering and public service. Whether it is through our surf lifesaving clubs, bush care groups, cultural organisations or local community associations, giving back to our local community is a vital part of what makes Pittwater such a special place. I salute the Palm Beach and Whale Beach Association for its part in ensuring that that public service ethos burns brightly in our local community. I thank serving committee members, including President Professor Richard West, AM, Vice President Virginia Christensen, Vice President John Warburton, Treasurer Douglas Maher, Secretary Janette Davie, AM, and honorary architect Bruce James. I congratulate them again for reaching a century of distinguished service to their local residents, and I look forward to attending the one hundredth annual general meeting next week.