Question time: Morisset kangaroos
2nd May 2018
Mr GREG PIPER ( Lake Macquarie ) ( 15:21 :44 ): My question is directed to the Minister for Health. With large numbers of people visiting the Morisset Hospital site every day to see, pat and photograph kangaroos and in so doing at times risking personal injury and impacting animal welfare as well as creating a significant problem for the management of this operating mental health and developmental disability facility, will the Minister act to implement improved management by relevant authorities, including Health and Environment?
Mr BRAD HAZZARD ( Wake hurst—Minister for Health, and Minister for Medical Research) (15:22:49): I thank the member for Lake Macquarie for his question. It is not entirely without notice in view of the fact that he made a private member's statement last night just after 7 o'clock and the video has gone wild on the internet.
Mr Greg Piper: Viral.
Mr BRAD HAZZARD: Viral, I understand. It is an interesting and challenging issue for us all. For those who do not know, the Morisset Hospital has approximately 130 patients with mental illness and psychiatric issues. There are probably another 40 or 50—
Mr Greg Piper: Sixty.
Mr BRAD HAZZARD: I accept that—40, 50, 60 people with disabilities who are being gradually transitioned out of that facility. The Morisset Hospital site lies approximately 4½ kilometres east of Morisset train station. It would be about a nine minute drive in a car through 4½ kilometres of forest. It is an open area with a number of buildings and group homes, and possibly up to 400 or 500 eastern grey kangaroos.
As Australians, we like our kangaroos, and this is a relevant question. Eastern greys are marsupials from the family of macropods. They are known as Macropus giganteus, which means they are large. The problem is that there are a lot of visitors to the site. This should be treated very seriously as there have been tourists, who do not necessarily speak English and cannot read the signs, as well as locals, who have been extremely badly injured by eastern greys grazing on the property. I say to our tourist friends that this is not an official tourist site but a private hospital site. It is a site where people have serious mental health issues—some of whom have come through the court system and are forensic patients—and are recovering. There are a range of concerns around tourists coming onto the site. Male eastern grey kangaroos can grow to about six feet tall, or 183 to 188 centimetres, and they can have shoulders that are as large as mine.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order!
Mr BRAD HAZZARD: I thank my colleagues for their undue excitement; I did not realise they would get excited about that. I say to the people in the public gallery that it is a very narrow environment in this House! Eastern grey kangaroos have large shoulders and can do a lot of harm. Male kangaroos, particularly when the females are in their estrous cycle and are ready for breeding, can be quite dangerous. When they are looking for food that has been brought in by tourists who do not understand that normally kangaroos are herbivores that eat grass and drink water can also be quite dangerous, and they will fight for it, but that is rare. [Extension of time]
Visitors should not be on this dangerous site as they run a real risk of injury. A number of government agencies are located around the site. It is a heavily forested area so Forestry, Sport and Recreation, National Parks, and a whole range of other agencies, as well as the health department and local government, are involved. I suggest it would be helpful to the member for Lake Macquarie and to locals, tourists and others to bring a community group together, including the member for Lake Macquarie, with various government agencies to address this problem. It is a large, unfenced area and it would be unpopular to close it off to visitors, but its management is the issue. How do we manage it? I do not have a simple answer. I think the answer is to bring the community together, and I ask the member for Lake Macquarie to be involved.
I am pleased that the member for Lake Macquarie has raised this matter because tourists need to know just how dangerous our unofficial national emblem can be. Eastern grey kangaroos can be very dangerous. In his video the member for Lake Macquarie highlighted that people suffer some very serious injuries, including very large intestinal stomach injuries, from eastern grey kangaroos. I will make sure that we get a group together to try to find a solution, but there is no easy solution.
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