On 15 November 2016 the Tasmanian Audit Office tabled in Parliament the report No.5 2016 Park Management. The full report, summary and audio summary are available from the Tasmanian Audit Office web site. The Audit Office assessed the management of national parks and other reserves, focusing on important matters related to management of high value assets, weed, pests and diseases, fire and human safety. It found some serious failings of the Parks and Wildlife Service’s management and made recommendations regarding how they might be addressed.
The Parks and Wildlife Service is the manager of 46% of Tasmania's land area and I would have expected that Minister Matthew Groom would have given greater attention and respect to this report. The initial response to the report's tabling in parliament was made by a spokesperson for the minister, not Matthew Groom. Even Daniel Leesong of the Tourism Industry Council of Tasmanian responded before the Minister (Mercury, 17 November 2016), making an appropriately considered response 'that our parks need greater public and private investment in visitor infrastructure, conservation and land management priorities'.
To date the Minister has not issued a media release regarding the audit report. The day following the release of the audit report the Minister found time to issue a statement full of glowing findings regarding the Parks 21 partnership between the tourism industry and the PWS. The next day he announced the appointment of the new General Manager of the PWS, which featured a strong emphasis on the appointee's experience in advancing tourism projects in reserves in Queensland. The next day he announced the winner of a short film competition celebrating Tasmania's parks and wilderness.
Finally when the minister responded on 19 November, apparently only to the Mercury, he simply claimed that resourcing had increased under his government, that the audit only focused on a part of the work done by the department and he claimed the auditor made an error in only looking at business plans of some regions. An audit process does not require every possible part of an organisation's systems and activities to be reviewed, just that an appropriate sample are looked at. Neither the minister nor his spokesperson responded directly to the findings that threats to parks and reserves were not being adequately addressed, regardless of the claimed increase in spending. I do not expect the minister to immediately respond to the audit in detail. But I do expect that he respect the function of the audit office and the importance of the issues raised by informing the Tasmanian public and the Parliament when and how he will respond to the report's findings.
Tasmanian Conservation Trust
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