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Estimates Reply - Treasurer

11 June 2019
Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr WOODRUFF - I rise to make some comments on the Budget scrutiny I undertook on behalf of the Greens in relation to local government. As Ms O'Connor mentioned it was a dispiriting process seeking clarification from the Treasurer and Local Government minister because he spent a lot of his time pointing the finger elsewhere and trying to deflect the responsibility he has to take account of the implications of the Lake Malbena LUPAA appeal that his government is taking part at the RMPAT tribunal and the implications for all local government councils, should that appeal prove successful.

This is the appeal which is occurring on the back of the developers Simone and Daniel Hackett losing the development application proposal they had lodged for a private development in Lake Malbena, one of the most beautiful islands in the world heritage area, where they would seek to make some private profit from the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

Good minded people in the community fought long and hard to make an appeal to the Central Highlands Council. The Central Highlands Council, courageously made the right decision, despite the fact that they had an enormously difficult and quite high profile and controversial decision to make. It was a courageous decision, one based on good process and a good understanding of their community and the strength of concerns that were raised by so many different conservation and angling groups and people concerned about retaining the wildness of the wilderness area in Tasmania; retaining the integrity of the United Nations stamp of wilderness that only Tasmania has the responsibility for upholding in the whole world with our beautiful wilderness world heritage area.

The Central Highlands Council made that decision. The Premier has been consistently on record saying, 'The Government will let due process take its course'. Due process did take its course. We find out that this private development was knocked back. They lost. The community and the wilderness won the day and did prevail. Into that space, the Attorney-General sought advice from the Solicitor-General and now an appeal has been lodged at the RMPAT which the Government has entered into as a party.

I simply asked the question of the Local Government minister, what are the implications and has he sought advice on the potential implications for the role of local councils as planning authorities with development applications all around Tasmania, should that appeal ultimately be proved successful? What are the implications should it be found that the Land Use Planning Approvals Act does not have jurisdiction over the world heritage area and over reserve areas with the management plan?

The minister refused to go there, refused to take responsibility for something which raises so many questions which people who care about developments everywhere in Tasmania in reserve areas and people who care particularly about wilderness areas, have a right to have answered.

It seems as though, on the one hand the Premier says, 'We will let due process take its course'. When due process does not give the answer that he and the Government have wanted, then they are more than happy to jump in and put the support and the resources of the Government into essentially fighting a rearguard appeal against not only that development application which was thrown out by the Central Highlands Council but against the rights of local councils everywhere in Tasmania to have jurisdiction over publicly-owned reserve lands, with or without a management plan. That is not yet clear to me.

This raises questions that the minister refuses to answer. He pointed me to the Planning minister as the appropriate place to get the answers. I can tell you, minister, that the Planning minister was equally unforthcoming. What a surprise. I knew that would be the answer.

This Government shunts us from one Estimates minister to another to waste time asking questions that will never be answered. Well, I am not dispirited because that is my job, this is the work. The work is to come in here and to speak the truth about what is going on. Despite the fact that we get false statements from ministers; we get deceptive statements, we get prevarication, we get fob-offs; despite that we will continue to ask the questions.

People have a right to know what the implications are for the Rosny Hill Conservation Recreation area. What are the implications for the massive development, which is still parked in the wings, waiting to come back and have another go? The developers have signalled that they intend to resubmit a development application for the top of Rosny Hill. The last time it went to the Clarence City Council it was a massive development, which essentially would have scalped the top of Rosny Hill and replaced it with a huge conference area, two restaurants, bars and all manner of other facilities, including accommodation on the top of a hill. This is a sanctuary for the people of Clarence and for visitors who come to look at our city, and for people who come to get reflection, beauty and some peace amongst a wildlife which exists in very few other places, including threatened orchids.

We want to know the implications of this appeal being mounted by the Government. We want to know the implications for other local government areas. We want to know whether this is fundamentally a stalking horse for the cable car. This is obviously another development that the Government is working as hard as possible to get up. The Hobart City Council has made it abundantly clear that they do not support a cable car. The wild beauty of kunanyi, right in the middle of Hobart, must be protected. Were it to be the case that the Land Use Planning and Approvals Act is found not to have jurisdiction in parks or reserved areas with management plans then that would clearly open a question about the ability of the Hobart City Council to sit as a planning authority and make a decision about any cable car proposal for the top of kunanyi/Mt Wellington.

The minister can duck and hide, but we will be back on these questions. The community will never give up on these places and the Greens will never stop asking questions and raising them on issues like wilderness areas.