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Damage in Protected Areas

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 30 August 2018

Tags: Tasmanian Walking Company, Land Clearing, Wineglass Bay

Ms O'CONNOR (Denison - Leader of the Greens - Motion) - Madam Speaker, I move -

That the House take note of the following matter: damage in protected areas.

We believe it is critical this parliament has a debate about what is happening inside our world-class national parks, Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, on crown lands and other public lands, because it is clear something is going terribly wrong in the management of our protected areas in Tasmania. I was advised earlier that I need to seek the leave of the House to table these images and I do so. They have been seen, minister. If they could be on the record -

Mr Ferguson - It's not from Bolivia or somewhere, is it?

Ms O'CONNOR - I am very happy to put my hand on my heart and say these are Google Earth images for which I have the coordinates, if the House wishes to have them, for a cleared area inside the Tasman National Park along the Three Capes Walk. It is pictorial evidence of clearing that was undertaken for a helipad the Tasmanian Walking Company had already decided it no longer required.

Madam SPEAKER - Ms O'Connor, the proper process is that you have sought leave and I have to ask the House for leave to be granted.
Leave granted.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you, Madam Speaker, and members. It begs two questions: why were two helipads in the same vicinity approved? What a foolish decision to approve not only a Parks and Wildlife Service facility but also a Tasmanian Walking Company helipad, which was unnecessary because they changed their mind later and decided they did not need it but were careless at best?

It is good to see the Premier and Minister for Parks here because the Tasmanian Walking Company, for some reason or another, failed to tell the contractor that they no longer needed the helipad, so a contractor with bulldozers and earth-clearing equipment went inside the public Tasman National Park and cleared a site for a helipad that was no longer required. The damage is done. The damage is already done and it will take years for that part of a fragile coastal park to recover from the damage.

Another issue here is that the Tasmanian Walking Company is one of the proponents for the expressions-of-interest process which has submitted multiple bids to develop inside the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area in places like the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park and the Walls of Jerusalem National Park.

These places belong to the people of Tasmania. Any commercial operator who is in there must be in there under the strictest conditions and there must be oversight and monitoring of the operations of construction and their ongoing presence inside protected areas. In this instance we are talking about the Tasman National Par, but as we know, under this Government there is an open-ended EOI process for exploitation inside Tasmania's protected areas and public lands.

On behalf of the Greens and every Tasmanian concerned about our parks and their protection, I am putting Tasmanian Walking Company on notice. We will be watching the way they conduct themselves in the Tasman National Park. They have received exclusive favoured treatment as a developer, to the exclusion of other operators of the Three Capes Track. They are seeking exclusive access to commercially exploit other protected areas through a flawed and opaque expression of interest process. I point Tasmanian Walking Company to, for example, the RACT, which initially made the terrible mistake of lodging an expression of interest to extend the Freycinet Lodge into the Freycinet National Park, but after listening to people, listening to the community and conservationists, the RACT backtracked, had an outstanding launch this week of their redeveloped lodge and thanked the conservation movement for their constructive role - and in brackets, unsaid, in saving the RACT from itself.

So Tasmanian Walking Company, we are watching you. We have seen the damage that has been caused by your carelessness inside the Tasman National Park. Understand this - we will be watching the expressions-of-interest process, as we have, very closely. On the record so far, there are legitimate questions to be asked about the Tasmanian Walking Company's conduct on the Three Capes Track and whether they are suitable to go into fragile areas like the Walls of Jerusalem or the Cradle Valley park.

There is also the other issue inside protected areas at the moment which is highly current, and that is the presence of cruise ships in protected waters at Wineglass Bay inside the Freycinet National Park. This is an issue we have raised over a number of years with the Premier and the previous minister for parks. There will be two cruise ships this year in summer and five cruise ships early next year, making seven cruise ships parking inside Wineglass Bay. We know that work has been undertaken on cruise ships in Tasmania and the future of the industry. Our very firm advice is that the Government has been sitting on that report for five months. That report has recommendations in it that need to be enacted to be sure the cruise ship industry is not damaging our protected areas and the maximum benefits are flowing through the regional and rural Tasmania.

When a cruise ship parks in Wineglass Bay the benefits flow to no-one except the cruise ship company. It is unacceptable to have cruise ships parked in Wineglass Bay, but we know that this Government's casual attitude towards parks is causing damage. We know that. According to their own projections there will be 1600 people an hour on the Wineglass Bay track within about five years. Premier, you need to do better than this and we expect to hear some answers from you in your contribution.

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Deputy Speaker, this Government came into office in 2014 with a specific vision in mind to crack open Tasmania's wild places, wilderness areas, national parks and nature conservation recreation areas - all of the protected areas in this state - and open them up for tourism development. In their view, these are all places to be exploited to make money through tourism, and it has become a pattern of theirs to continue an approach which is secret and locks the public out of having a say about what is happening in our own protected, publicly owned lands and gives people no right to appeal the straw processes they put up which be seen for what they are.

In Tasmania we protect and are responsible for protecting the only Wilderness World Heritage Area in the world. Of the World Heritage Areas that the United Nations have declared, Tasmania is lucky enough to be home to the only one that has the word 'wilderness' in its title. Fundamental to the integrity of the management of that is to protect the outstanding universal values within this wilderness area, and that is the primary management tool that the UN require Tasmania to do.

We had a fantastic wilderness protection plan. The 1999 Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area Protection Management Plan was widely acknowledged by environmentalists and conservationists as award-winning. It had really strong protections for wilderness and explicit prohibitions on development of all sorts.

When the Liberals came to office in 2014 their first move was to attempt to take out 74 000 hectares of beautiful World Heritage-protected land and to turn it over to the forestry industry to keep the maw of Forestry Tasmania going, to keep the public subsidies going into the forestry industry and, to do that, by giving them more of this beautiful land. The outrage across Tasmania, outside of Tasmania and at the UN levels squashed that and put on so much pressure that they backed down from that move, but it was only because of people who care about our wild places that they ever moved away from that. Instead, what they have done since then is to set in train a so-called management plan which is designed to allow for the exploitation of wilderness places through tourism development.

The management plan which was ultimately agreed to in 2016 for the TWWHA is utterly deficient in protecting wilderness values. It is incapable of achieving its first objective, which is protecting the integrity of outstanding universal values. The 1999 plan that was in place had its main management objective of maintaining and enhancing wilderness quality. It is the key feature of that plan because we are the only place on Earth that has a World Heritage Area with the word 'wilderness' recognised in its title.

The final management plan, however, that the Liberals have used now to enable the commercial development of the TWWHA through putting a number of huts on the South Coast Track, changed it to only needing to protect and conserve areas of exceptional natural and aesthetic and cultural importance, not the whole park but areas of the park. Here we have a situation where our protected areas, our national parks and wilderness areas, are chopped up into little pieces and the secret process of the Coordinator-General and the secret processes that occur within the Premier's department are about cutting up segments, continuing to remove, change or expand zones within the national parks and wilderness areas so that it provides more and more opportunities for helicopter flights, for commercial development within parks, for cruise ships in Wine Glass Bay and in Port Davey.

This is an endemic approach of this Government across everything to do with development. We have a system, as we are seeing in Norfolk Bay and Macquarie Harbour, which has utterly failed people in their ability to protect the damage that is being inflicted on the harbour and may be inflicted on Norfolk Bay. Environmental damage is being undertaken because of a failure to regulate the salmon farming industry to protect the marine environment. At every step, the Government removes the opportunity for formal public consultation, ensures there are no third party appeal rights to decisions and allows companies to undertake their own assessment of potential damage and the risk of impact, instead of making sure that, that is an arm's length from commercial interest investigations.

The planning scheme which the Liberals brought in, in 2015, and the statewide planning provisions have allowed us to have a damaging development on Rosny Hill and we are looking at the east coast further being degraded.