State government abandons threatened species

The Tasmanian Conservation Trust has today called on the Tasmanian Planning Commission to recommend to the State Government that the approach being taken to conservation of natural values in the Tasmanian Statewide Planning Scheme is totally inadequate and devoid of contemporary scientific input and that the Natural Values Code in particular should be scrapped and started again. The Tasmanian Planning Commission is today holding hearings in Hobart into the Draft Natural Assets Code which forms part of the State Planning Provisions, which in tern forms a key part of the Tasmanian Statewide Planning Scheme. The TCT will be making a presentation at the hearings regarding the Code.

"The TCT's particular concern is that state government has failed to provide strict instructions to councils to ensure important threatened species habitats and other natural values on private land are protected through strict zoning and that the Code provides no safety net for them," said TCT director Peter McGlone. "The safety net for species found outside of the more restrictive zones is supposed to be the Natural Assets Code, but this is so strewn with exemptions, gaps, loopholes and vagaries of key terms that it is hard to image that even the most endangered species would be properly protected through planning approvals unless an enlightened proponent insists upon it."

"Perhaps the most stunning exemption is that the Code does not apply to any threats to natural values other than clearance of native vegetation - therefore the Code would not prevent a house being built close to a Wedge-tailed eagle nest that was guaranteed to cause the adult birds to abandon the eggs or chicks. "Buildings will also be allowed to be built in ways that present a high risk of birds colliding with windows and fences, causing a massive increase in risk to the critically endangered swift parrot.

"I have been involved with conservation of threatened species since the early 1990s and the approach taken in the draft Code reminds me of where the Forest Practices Code was 20 or 25 years ago."

The approach taken with the code is a recipe for continued fragmentation and degradation of vegetation that will increase the risk of endangered species going extinct and add more species to the endangered list.'

"The Government wants to avoid unacceptable impacts on developers and as long as a token effort is made it will be acceptable." Exemptions - The Natural Values Code does NOT: - apply to 10 of the 22 zones; - apply to many works undertaken by Councils and state government agencies; - require the protection of 'priority vegetation' within farmland and reserves; - apply to impacts on species and vegetation from ongoing use of a site; - apply to threats other than loss of habitat e.g. disturbance during nesting and death of individuals; - apply to clearance of important feeding and roosting areas (which may under greater threat for some species).

The Natural Values Code is inadequate in terms of the natural values that it applies to including: - freshwater ecosystems; - geoheritage; - locally or regionally important vegetation; - species or vegetation listed on the Federal EPBC Act which are not also listed on Tasmanian legislation e.g. lowland grassland, eastern quoll. - Significant populations and genes. The Natural Values Code is inadequate in terms of its application, including: - Where information is lacking on a development site there is no requirement for a site assessment of the land by the proponent and if there a site assessment is done there is no requirement for the Council to adopt the recommendation; - for threatened plant species there is no requirement for buffers to allow for inadequate information about the population size.

The key terms in the Natural Values Code are not appropriately defined, including: - The objective of the Code in terms of threatened fauna is only to "minimise clearance of significant habitat" and "avoiding unacceptable impacts" which will mean that developers only have to make a token effort to leave some habitat, rather than what may be require for the survival of the species.

Further information
Peter McGlone
Tasmanian Conservation Trust
0406 380 545