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.
In the August 2015 Tasmanian Conservationist issue no.335 I wrote about a very worrying proposal for a large tourism development in the Rosny Hill Nature Recreation Area, on Hobart’s eastern shore. This very important, if small, reserve of 20 hectares includes numerous threatened flora and significant grasslands and forest communities. The proposed development would have a footprint of about 30% of the reserves area, including 120 accommodation suites, a function centre catering for 300 people and a 150-seat restaurant.
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 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.
Just prior to Christmas 2015, the state government released for public comment its ‘Embracing the Climate Challenge: Tasmania’s draft climate change action plan 2016-2021’ (Draft Plan). However, as the TCT’s submission pointed out, the Draft Plan has major blind spots when it comes to forestry, native forest clearing for agriculture, population increase and management of biodiversity.
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 government has been keen for Tasmania to be ‘open to development’ and part of this push is to ‘unlock national parks and other reserves’. It seems that the government has a very keen collaborator in the Clarence City Council (CCC). Perhaps the most ambitious proposal for a development on reserved land (that has progressed beyond the concept stage) since the Tasmanian Liberal government was elected is the one by Hunter Developments’ proposal for a tourism development in the Rosny Hill Nature Recreation Area (Rosny Hill NRA).
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.
On 19 September 2014 the Tasmanian Planning Commission (TPC) refused the Goggin Foundation (GF) application to have much of the eastern half of the Seven Mile Peninsula rezoned to enable a golf resort and housing development. This decision followed the Clarence City Council’s (CCC) decision in February this year to oppose the rezoning.
The Greens have secured a deal with the Palmer United Party (PUP) and Labor that effectively kills the federal government’s plan to hand its environmental approval powers to the states under its ‘one-stop shop’ policy. The deal builds on PUP’s refusal a month ago to allow federal approval of mines and coal seam gas projects impacting on a water resource — known as the ‘water trigger’ — to be handed to the states.
The state government recently released a discussion paper ‘Reforming Tasmania’s Planning System: a position paper on the Land Use Planning and Approvals Amendments Bill 2014’ to selected stakeholders requesting their comments. The Planning Position Paper includes numerous proposals – I estimate more than half – which were not mentioned in the Liberals’ election policy on planning. Other included proposals are justified as being delivery of a ‘Fairer, Faster, Cheaper and Simpler Planning System’ but the rationale is less than convincing.