Minister Groom unconcerned by development in national parks

Eight of Tasmania’s leading conservation organisations have gone public to complain that Minister for Parks, Environment and Heritage Matthew Groom has refused to formally meet with or consult our groups over the government’s call for expressions of interest for commercial tourist developments in national parks and other reserves. The eight conservation organisations wrote to the minister on 30 August 2016 outlining concerns and requesting a meeting prior to the next call for expressions of interest. “Three months after sending this letter our groups have not received a reply and have not been offered a meeting with the minister, which we find unacceptable for a minister for the environment,” said Peter McGlone, Director, Tasmanian Conservation Trust.

“We have raised numerous serious concerns regarding the previous EoI process and parallel Government processes that are weakening longstanding protections contained in reserve management plans and planning scheme processes and cutting out public engagement in development decisions in publicly-owned reserves,” said Vica Bayley, Tasmanian Campaign Manager, the Wilderness Society. “The EoI process relates to public land and the large number of people that are members of our organisations deserve some response from the minister,” said Sophie Underwood, Freycinet Action Network. “Our concerns relate to fundamental flaws in the process and it is astonishing that the minister is not even prepared to talk to us and attempt to understand these concerns,” said Nick Sawyer, Spokesperson for the Tasmanian National Parks Association.

The TCT and TNPA have written three times to the minister about these matters over more than 18 months but the replies have failed to provide answers to questions provided. Other groups supporting the 30 August letter were Markets for Change, Bob Brown Foundation, BirdLife Tasmania and North-east Bioregional Network. The concerns the groups raised included: - the lack of clear and credible criteria for assessing EOI projects - the lack of information, public consultation or any opportunity to challenge decisions - the lack of commitment to assessment under the Parks and Wildlife Service’s Reserve Activity Assessment process - contradictory statements regarding potential changes to management plans and regulations to facilitate developments.

The groups pointed out to the minister that while he has given assurances that the EOI projects will all be subject to “normal statutory process” the changes proposed under the statewide planning scheme will make all developments in reserves permitted as long as they are assessed and approved by PWS under its internal and non-statutory Reserve Activity Assessment process. Being permitted means that the developments in reserves will not be subject to public comment and councils cannot refuse them. We remain concerned that developments in national parks will be subject to a less rigorous, open and transparent process than equivalent development proposals on private land.

Interview and photo opportunity: Peter McGlone, Vica Bayley, Nick Sawyer and Sophie Underwood will be available for interviews and photo opportunities from 11.30 am, Thursday 8 December at Parliament House lawns, Hobart.

Further comment: Peter McGlone – 0406 380 545 Vica Bayley – 0400 644 939 Nick Sawyer – 0414 718 831 Sophie Underwood – 0407 501 999