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.
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.
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).
The Forestry (Rebuilding the Forest Industry) Act 2014 (FRFI Act), passed the Tasmanian Parliament on 2 September 2014 and commenced on 22 October. It includes provisions which amend the statutory management objectives and purposes for all conservation areas and regional reserves (clauses 27 and 31) to specifically permit harvesting of special species timbers.
Practitioners from a range of disciplines and countries spoke about emerging threats and new technologies being developed and applied in the field of vertebrate pest management. Pest species and their associated management challenges discussed at the conference ranged from old foes including wild dogs, feral horses, feral cats, camels, goats, foxes, Indian mynas, starlings, pigs, deer, rabbits, carp, rats, wallabies and possums to new arrivals such as smooth newts in Victoria and black-spined toads.
In June 2014 the state government advertised in Tasmanian newspapers for expressions of interest (EOI) for tourism developments in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, national parks and other reserves. The very brief publicly available questions-and-answers document, ‘Tourism Investment Opportunities in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, National Parks and Reserves’ (Q&A document), makes for disturbing reading.
The Tasmanian Government introduced the Workplaces (Protection from Protesters) Bill 2014 (the Bill) into the House of Assembly on 24 June 2014. The Bill was passed by the House at 11.15pm on 26 June 2014. The Liberal Government went to the election in March with a promise to introduce ‘tough’ new laws to impose mandatory sentences and large fines for protesters who prevent, hinder or obstruct forestry or mining activities.
The Forestry (Rebuilding the Forest Industry) Bill 2014 was passed in the Lower House of the Tasmanian Parliament on 5 June 2014 (World Environment Day). Due to a number of questions that Legislative Councillors asked of the state government and could not be answered, the government agreed that debate on the Bill should be delayed until the spring sitting of the Council.
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.
It seems that the entire Tasmanian conservation movement is united in its opposition to the Abbott Coalition government’s proposal to the World Heritage Committee to revoke 74,000 hectares from the 170,000 ha which was added to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) in June 2013. As well as writing to the Federal Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, the TCT made a submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications which is investigating this proposal