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Auditor-General's Report - EOI Process

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Tags: Auditor-General, Parks EOIs

Auditor-General's Report - EOI Process, Cassy O'Connor MP, 22 September 2020


Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to give members a summary of the Auditor-General's report into the expressions of interest process for tourism in public protected areas. The key points of the Auditor-General's carefully worded but ultimately damming assessment are these.

The report found that the consultation process for reserve activity assessments - and these are the internal documents that Parks produces and we have a copy of the Lake Malbena one here - is proponent driven and lacks minimum standards. The report found that leases and licences are not subject to ongoing review. The report notes that the Solicitor-General advised the assessment panel that individual proposals should be submitted for his review, but this has never occurred. It does beg the question, why?

The Auditor-General's report found that the reserve activity assessment process is insufficient for complex proposals. Of the 22 reserve activity assessment documents audited, only two had complete documentation, some evaluation reports were missing and key information was missing from activity plans. The report regularly identifies areas where documentation simply was not available. The report notes the absence of environmental conservation experts and members of the Tasmanian Aboriginal community that contributed to issues with projects receiving a social licence.

The Auditor-General notes the decision not to replace the independent member of the EOI assessment panel after their resignation was unexplained. The expressions of interest process was meant to have a communications and engagement group to work with stakeholders, but this group was never convened. The Auditor-General's report notes that the EOI process probity adviser should have not had any other involvement in the process, yet most of the external review reports commissioned in relation to proposals went to the same organisation that provided a probity officer. No safeguards were put in place to prevent a conflict of interest.

The Auditor General notes that Tasmania is the only state that allows for proposals that are inconsistent with management plans such as the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area management plan 2016 which was written in order to enable commercial development in public protected areas.

The Auditor-General found that the scoring process was problematic, with proposal scores often allocated before vital information was received, potentially prejudicing final scoring. Because of an average of assessment scores, projects that failed one or more criteria could still be recommended for approval.

The report noted that the panel did not have economic or financial expertise and that projects were often recommended to progress with poor quality or incomplete financial information. The Auditor-General notes that despite job creation being a key component of the communication and indeed propaganda around the expressions of interest program, there was no emphasis placed on this during assessment and the estimates provided to the panel were unreliable. The Auditor-General found that the jobs created so far by the Liberals' expressions of interest process are relatively minor.

This again is another damning indictment on an assessment process which has alienated bushwalkers, flyfishers and countless other lovers of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. I recommend members look at it. This is in the same week of course that the federal Environment minister has agreed that the Lake Malbena proposal inside the Walls of Jerusalem National Park should be assessed as a controlled assessment. I note that in the past four years since the Liberals in government rewrote the World Heritage Area Management Plan it is very clear that there needs to be a fire management plan in the TWWHA. It has not been delivered and in fact the discussion paper on a fire management plan in the TWWHA is only just being released now.

It is the same as the tourism master plan for the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. These two critical pieces of work were left to fall by the wayside while the Parks and Wildlife Service was politicised in order to facilitate the commercialisation and privatisation of Tasmania's wilderness. How scandalous it is that in a climate and biodiversity emergency the Government's Parks and Wildlife Service could not deliver a fire management plan for the TWWHA in under four years when we have had massive burns through that area. That is because the Government has diverted the resources of the Parks and Wildlife Service into this privatisation process and other critical work has been left in abeyance.

It is a sad, sad day for the once great Parks and Wildlife Service, the fantastic people who are working out in the field for the Parks and Wildlife Service because they love the wilderness and the cultural values they are tasked with protecting in their day jobs. The management of Parks under the Liberals has let critical work fall off the table and only now, four years after the World Heritage Area management plan was rewritten to allow development, are we starting to see some background papers on a fire management plan for the TWWHA.

Shame on the Minister for Environment and Parks. This has happened on his watch. He has a solemn responsibility not to privatise and degrade the wilderness with private developers but to protect its natural and cultural values that are there for all to enjoy and for future generations. They are our gift to future generations and not this Government and the current Parks and Wildlife Service management.

In future, this place is for all the people of the world and Mr Jaensch ought to be ashamed of the fact that we only saw the tourism master plan earlier this year and we still have not seen a fire management plan for the only property on the World Heritage list that has 'wilderness' in its name. It is something we should be proud of and defend. It is not something we should privatise and give away for trinkets.