Rosalie Woodruff MP | Greens Environment spokesperson
The news that DPIPWE will no longer be producing a statewide priority vegetation map as part of the Statewide Planning Scheme was like a bombshell hitting the audience at today's Tasmanian Planning Commission Hearings.
The Hearings for the Draft Natural Assets Code heard that the Secretary of DPIPWE has written to the Minister advising there are insufficient resources to make a state map. DPIPWE had previously committed to making a statewide priority habitat map to assess developments against.
At today's hearings, the Tasmanian Wilderness Society presented a comprehensive statewide biodiversity map they have commissioned, and which they submitted to the Planning Minister. This map can be used to assess connectivity and landscape, and is based on 971 layers at 1km grid cell size.
Minister Groom needs to explain how a community organisation is able to produce a high-resolution, high-quality biodiversity map of the Tasmanian landscape, but his own government can't prioritise the resources to do this essential task?
Instead of the statewide consistency the Minister promised, decisions about priority vegetation will now be made at a local level. It's not clear what source of information, resources or expertise local councils will have to make informed decisions about threatened species habitats.
It's tempting to conclude the Government thinks a statewide priority vegetation map might stand in the way of development. It's a question of priorities, and the Government has chosen paving a pathway for developers over protecting our animal and plant diversity.
With the exemptions, gaps, loopholes, and vague terms in the Draft Natural Assets Code it's hard to see how even the most endangered species can be protected. Instead, the Code will endorse continued landscape fragmentation and degradation, and ensure more species become endangered and extinct.
If the Minister for Planning signs off on the Draft Natural Assets Code without a high-quality statewide map, he is signalling that "we don't regulate" to protect threatened species anymore.
The Minister needs to ask the Wilderness Society if they're willing to provide their map to the Government for the purpose of protecting important habitat. We suspect they may be able to help.