Director's Report July 2015

Members would know from our recent letter appealing for end-of-financial-year donations that the TCT is in financial trouble and that without a substantial increase in income we cannot guarantee we will be able to operate beyond 2016.

Not only are we appealing to the TCT members for more donations but we are taking the unprecedented step of going public in saying how perilous our finances are. It is not easy to tell the media that the TCT is now the endangered species. This increased boldness is largely thanks to the TCT’s new fundraiser, Kyia Clayton.

In response to these pleas we have seen a very healthy increase in donations – thank you! We were delighted at this tangible proof that the public supports and appreciates our work. It feels as if we have turned a corner and we now need to find ways to keep the momentum going.

End of an era: Launceston Environment Centre closes

Earlier this month the Launceston Environment Centre (LEC) closed after 41 years of operation. It donated $10,000 of its remaining funds to the TCT. In a media release, LEC President Dr Lee Bowkett thanked those who have contributed to the organisation and said that ‘Our final thank you to the community includes a $10,000 donation to the TCT. We know the TCT will continue to deliver conservation gains for Launceston and all of Tasmania’.

While it is very sad to see the LEC closing, we are honoured to be receiving this donation and can guarantee that it will be spent wisely.

The TCT wants to take this opportunity to try to increase its activity and supporter base in northern Tasmania. To help with this aim, we want to hear from the people of Launceston and surrounding areas about the environmental issues that concern them. The TCT will be shortly advertising an environmental dinner in Launceston to celebrate the achievements of the LEC and to start a conversation over future environmental priorities. Check our website and Facebook for details.

House of Representatives Inquiry into conservation groups

Some conservation groups are closing and many others are struggling; meanwhile the federal government has initiated a House of Representatives Inquiry into the tax-deductibility status of more than 600 conservation groups. The government’s clear agenda is to try to remove the tax-deductibility status of those groups it deems to be anti-development and too political, retaining it for only those that carry out practical, non-political work on the ground.

The conservative national government in Canada has introduced new tax rules, in a clear political attack on conservation groups that oppose coal or gas mining. Groups that spend more than 10% of their income on advocacy are defined as lobby groups and are ineligible for tax-deductibility status. Some that retain tax-deductibility are harassed by regular tax department audits.

Along with seven other locally based environment groups, I made a presentation to the committee at its hearing in Hobart on 21 July. While I think we all impressed upon the committee the valuable work we do and that our groups operate in different ways – most doing a mix of advocacy and practical projects – it does appear there is a preconceived outcome in the minds of some committee members.