On the eve of the submission period closing for the review of the proposed expansion of salmon farming at Okehampton Bay on Tasmania's east coast, the Tasmanian Conservation Trust has again questioned the independence of the Panel chosen by the state government to conduct the so called "independent review". The TCT has also revealed, for the first time, questions over the legal status of the review called by Minister Jeremy Rockliff which may mean the review will have no authority to bring changes to how fish farming occurs in this part of the east coast.
Review Panel is not independent Commenting on its submission, TCT Director Peter McGlone said that: 'While we have provided the Marine Farming Planning Review Panel with a comprehensive submission to consider in its review of the proposal to expand salmon farming at Okehamption Bay, our biggest concern is that this Panel is the wrong body to be reviewing this issue. “We believe that, at the outset of the inquiry the minister mislead the public by suggesting the Marine Farming Planning Review Panel would conduct an "independent assessment" and would allay community concerns.
“What we need to remember is that the Panel actually approved the current lease area that is now so contentious, so it cannot possibly do an independent review of its own decision. 'The Panel has been a rubber stamp for the fish farming industry for twenty years and it is highly disingenuous for the Minister to ask this panel to critically review any fish farm licence.' 'While we have provided the panel with our advice on how the science of assessing and monitoring fish farms may be improved, we do not have confidence that the science will be properly reviewed by this less than independent pro-industry panel'.
'In our submission we have recommended that an independent body such as the Tasmanian Planning Commission should have the responsibility to review fish farm licences.' The TCT said that during its entire existence (almost 20 years) the Marine Farming Planning Review Panel has only knocked back one fish farm proposal, at Soldiers Point, Bruny Island. After that setback to industry, changes were made to the membership of the panel and planning legislation that, in our view, makes it even less likely that aquaculture expansion would be influenced in any meaningful way by community concerns. Review process has questionable legal status The TCT has also pointed out in its submission and in correspondence to the Minister, concerns that the legal status of the review process has not been defined.
We believe the review is not being done under a prescribed process under the Marine Farming Planning Act 1995 and this will limit the likelihood of any actual response to public concerns that are raised. 'The implication of a review being done outside of the act is that the Panel may have no actual power to recommend changes to the Marine Farming Development Plan that governs how fish farming is carried out. 'Why was the public not told about this when asked to provide submissions?
It is possible that this entire review process has been a sham', Mr McGlone concluded. The TCT has written to Minister Rockliff requesting clarification on the legal status of the review as well as pointing out our concerns regarding the Marine Farming Planning Review Panel. Our submission is attached.
Tasmanian Conservation Trust
0406 380 545