Grasslands update February 2010

It is now six months since the Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett, listed Tasmanian Lowland Native Grasslands on the EPBC Act and we are finally starting to see the public debate calm down and the Australian Government take action to implement the listing. Attempts by the Liberal Party to have the listing disallowed in the Senate failed when the government and Green senators joined forces. Although some farming interests still believe the listing can be overturned or amended, to exclude former grassy woodland that has lost its tree cover, this is highly unlikely to succeed. The sensible approach to take will be to work with the Australian Government to ensure that grasslands are well managed and minimise disruption to legitimate farming activities.

Toward this end, Minister Garrett has responded to the TCT’s letter stating that he is hopeful of developing a strategic plan for EPBC listed grasslands, specifically targeting those in the area subject to the Midlands Water Scheme.  A strategic plan would have statutory power under the EPBC Act and the TCT believes this is an efficient and sensible way of addressing any situation where a large number of landowners may be planning to develop their land, in this case for irrigation. It is more efficient to work with all affected landowners collectively rather than leave them to approach the government individually for approvals. A strategic plan would occur early in the planning process so that impacts can be avoided, mitigated or offset at the landscape level. It would also allow for a more streamlined and consistent approach and provide certainty to individual landowners. Minister Garrett has indicated that he has written to State Minister David Llewellyn, seeking his support for a strategic plan before making a final decision.