The State Government’s changes to planning legislation have sown the seeds for overdevelopment in Tasmania’s iconic cities, coastal hideaways, heritage towns and wilderness areas, whilst creating opaque processes that empower the Planning Minister and strip the community’s rights. They have plans for more draconian changes.
First, let me apologise for the long period since the last newsletter. We have had a few changes here at the TCT, most significant being the departure last December of long serving TCT officer manager Trish McKeown. Those who knew Trish would know she didn’t want a great fuss being made about her, but I do feel it necessary to say thank you to her publically on behalf of all TCT members, councillors and staff, past and present.
With just a few days before submissions were due on the proposed amendments to the Freycinet National Park Management Plan, the TCT discovered the true implication of the proposal. In our media release of Sunday 29 February 2016, we exposed the true consequences of the proposed amendments, which go well beyond the government’s stated objective of allowing expansion of Freycinet Lodge.
The bushfire situation in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) has worsened significantly in the last 40 years. In the early 1980s, malicious and spiteful lighting of fires was rampant, particularly along the Lyell Highway, although this human malevolence seems to have largely abated. Accidental ignitions from campfires and other human folly require vigilant controls, but they are not the most significant threat. Since the early 2000s fires started by dry lightning have become the most significant concern.
The intervention of the World Heritage Committee (WHC) has resulted in the state government dropping plans to allow mining and logging in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) and commit to a range of other positive changes to the draft management plan. However, there is still doubt about whether the government’s approach to tourism projects in the TWWHA will change significantly in response to the WHC.
The eastern section of the Three Capes Track on the Tasman Peninsula was officially opened on 17 September and immediately received a flurry of bookings and self congratulatory comments from the state government that it provided a world class experience. This half of the 3CT starts near Port Arthur before heading to Cape Pillar and Cape Hauy and finishing at Fortesque Bay.
The state budget allocation of $8 million over the next two years to the Parks and Wildlife Service for infrastructure in parks and reserves may be a mixed blessing. The media release by Minister Matthew Groom made it very clear that the ‘new’ funding for parks and reserves is for built infrastructure management and we have received confirmation from the minister’s office that funding is for ‘replacement’ and ‘refurbishment’ and not for ‘new’ infrastructure.
During the state election the Liberal Party promised a 12-month moratorium on fracking across Tasmania. In the last newsletter we told you that the TCT had written to the new Liberal government requesting details about when the moratorium would commence and what it intended to do in terms of studies and policy reviews during the moratorium. On 26 August 2014 we received a letter from Minister for Resources Paul Harriss informing us that the moratorium had commenced four months earlier. Not only had nothing occurred during the four months but the government had notified no one about it until it wrote to the TCT.
In the Tasmanian Conservationist No.328, March 2013, we reported on concerns that parts of the Three Capes Track were being constructed and opened to the public without installation of the safety rails which were required by the Parks and Wildlife Service.
From a policy perspective the state election was most notable because the victorious Liberal Party failed to release a single environment policy, i.e. a pro-environment policy. The closest it got was the announcement of funding for the Three Capes Track, and South Coast Track but both were made alongside tourism industry representatives and were framed as investments in tourist development.
Since inscription on the World Heritage List in 1982, the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) has been managed under a partnership arrangement between the Australian and Tasmanian Governments. Day-to-day management of the area is the responsibility of the Parks and Wildlife Service.
Back in May 2007, an article entitled ‘World Heritage Embarrassment’ was published in the Tasmanian Conservationist (#311), highlighting the stand-off by the Tasmanian Government on funding for a program to remove rabbits, rats and mice from Macquarie Island and its credibility on nature conservation in one of the most important reserves in Australia.