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Liberals See Tasmania's Wilderness Only For its Economic Value

4 May 2016

Wednesday 4 May 2016

Ms O'CONNOR question to MINISTER for ENVIRONMENT, PARKS and HERITAGE, Mr GROOM

[10.28 a.m.]

The budget papers show a massive cut to Commonwealth funding for the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.  It falls from $5.2 million this current financial year to $1.8 million next year, $1.7 million in 2017-18, and nothing at all under the national partnership in the years thereafter.  When you were in Canberra with the Basslink begging bowl out, did you bother to make the case for continued funding under the national partnership for management of the World Heritage values of the Tasmanian wilderness?  Did you bother to point out that after the devastating fires of this past summer, more funding for management, not less, is required?  Can you justify this cut to World Heritage funding on behalf of your federal colleagues, or will you be working to have it reversed, as it needs to be?

ANSWER

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her question.  I can confirm for the member that there is a strong ongoing commitment to the World Heritage area, including in funding by the Commonwealth Government, $8.7 million over the forward Estimates.  There is a significant upfront contribution by the Commonwealth to undertake important work, including the cultural study that has been agreed to by the Commonwealth Government and the Tasmanian Government in response to concerns that have been raised by the UN mission, and that work will be ongoing.

It is hypocritical for the member for Denison, Ms O'Connor, to complain about funding for Parks.  One of the most significant things we can do as a state to ensure the ongoing sustainability of funding is to ensure that we are utilising our natural areas for economic benefit. 

Greens members interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order.  The House will come to order.

Mr GROOM - I know the Greens will oppose that but the truth is we can share and celebrate our natural areas in a way that secures revenue, investment and jobs for the Tasmanian economy, including regional parts of Tasmania.  It is through that opportunity that we can ensure the ongoing sustainability of these areas. 

Greens members interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order.  Members on the crossbenches will cease their interjections.

Mr GROOM - This Government makes no apology for the fact we seek to pursue those opportunities on behalf of the people of Tasmania.  That is why we have undertaken the EOI process.  I know it is opposed by the Greens but that is very much to the detriment of the long‑term sustainability of the management of these precious areas.  It is also to the detriment of regional parts of Tasmania.  What we saw consistently under the previous Labor-Greens government was the complete abandonment of regional Tasmania and of the need to encourage investment and create jobs.

Ms Woodruff interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order.  I warn the honourable member for Franklin, Ms Woodruff, for constant interjections.

Ms O'CONNOR - Madam Speaker, I draw your attention to the fact the minister has not addressed the question, which is about Commonwealth funding.

Madam SPEAKER - You have not even called a point of order, so you will take your seat.

Mr GROOM - I understand why the member for Denison, Ms O'Connor, is defensive on this point.  The previous Labor-Greens government abandoned regional Tasmania.

Ms O'Connor - You're abandoning the World Heritage Area.

Madam SPEAKER - Order.  I warn the honourable member for Denison, Ms O'Connor.

Mr GROOM - They undermined investment and jobs and seek to deny Tasmanians opportunity from our natural areas.  This Government makes no apology for the fact we seek to maximise opportunity for Tasmania through our precious areas in a way which is genuinely sustainable, sensitive to the cultural and natural values of those areas, and can ensure that we raise revenue, create investment and jobs in this state to help support the management of those precious areas for future generations.