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Dismal Swamp Regional Reserve

Vica Bayley MP

Vica Bayley MP  -  Wednesday, 15 November 2023

Tags: Parks, Environment, Tourism

Mr BAYLEY (Clark) - Mr Speaker, I thank the member for bringing on this motion. I will start my contribution by expressing frustration and an observation of how purely cynical this motion and this proclamation is.

Most people in the community - in fact, even this Government - point to our reserve agenda, points to the over 50 per cent of Tasmania that is protected in a reserve. Mind you, that figure includes all the FPPF, because they are a part of the Tasmanian reserve estate.

When the Government points to those reserves, most people think they are protected for their natural and cultural heritage values; that the primary motivation for protecting those values.

Of course, there are other motivations and other benefits of protecting those areas, and it includes tourism, recreation, and a whole raft of other issues. But, the primary motivation, the primary purpose of protecting those areas is to protect pristine areas, to protect our incredible species, to protect the landscapes that are so valued here in Tasmania for our brand.

This motion lays bare the agenda of this Liberal Government, because it is wholly motivated by privatisation of public land for a tourism operator to develop. Not once in the minister's speech did he mention the natural and cultural values of this area. Not once did he mention that it is protected because it includes amazing forest, it includes habitat for species like the Tasmanian Devil, the Spotted Tail Quoll, the Eastern Barred Bandicoot and the like. Not once were those values mentioned. It is all about privatising this area, offering a private lease to a private investor to develop a whole range of tourism assets. That is an utter shame in this place, that the only motivation in this instance is to privatise it for a private investor to develop.

It is not the only shame in relation to this motion and this proclamation. I make the observation - and it is very easy to see when you log onto the LIST and check out the reserve. Mayer [?TBC 7.08.00] this block of land, this parcel, this polygon, it is not the only piece of FPPF land that is attached to the Dismal Swamp Regional Reserve. In fact, there is another one to the north-west and another one to the south-west. But, of course, this proclamation does not include those areas, and there is no capacity, as we understand it, for us to try and amend the proclamation to include them in it. Again, it reinforces the point that this is only about privatising that one piece of land because of the tourism assets that are in it and the tourism potential for a private investor there.

We have heard from Dr Broad about the FPPF forests more broadly. I remind the House and take the opportunity to state that there are 356 000 hectares of other future potential production forests scattered all around regional Tasmania, that could and should be protected under Tasmania's Nature Conservation Act. Extraordinary areas, stretching from Bruny Island in the south, Pilot Hill in the far south, all the way up the Eastern Tiers and the Tasman Peninsula, across the north-east Highlands, through central Tasmania and of course, the takayna/Tarkine, as well. Those 356 000 hectares host a range of amazing natural and cultural heritage values: some of the tallest trees on earth; some of the most unique species that you can find anywhere on the planet; Aboriginal heritage that is millennia old and other areas.

It is a crying shame that when we are taking the opportunity to debate this one tiny 98-hectare parcel of land; that we are not showing the level of ambition that we should when it comes to our natural and cultural assets; and we are not proclaiming reserves across all of those 356 000 hectares.

The reality is that each of those hectares presents an opportunity, from a tourism perspective. The Greens do support tourism, we do support tourism in our natural areas. We have long argued that tourism presents an alternative economic model to the extractive industries - and we maintain that. Let me be perfectly clear: our support for tourism does not equate to the Government's expression of interest process. Our support for tourism does not mean choppering people into remote areas and putting them up in Saffire standard luxury huts. It doesn't include desecrating and off-siding the Aboriginal community because you are building huts on an Aboriginal cultural landscape like on the south coast track.

The 356 000 hectares of future potential production forest land presents an enormous opportunity from a tourism perspective and it offers the opportunity to truly spread the wealth of the tourism dollar around regional Tasmania. When you fly people into remote huts in the south-west wilderness, the tourism dollar does not go far. Sure, there are some guides employed. Sure, there are a few bottles of wine that are drunk from a Tasmanian winery. Most of that money is banked by the tourism operator, and most of those tourism operators are now interstate companies.

The 356 000 hectares of future potential production forest are places that already have roads in them. They have bridges in them. They have tracks. They have campsites. They are distributed around regional Tasmania. If we took the opportunity to develop public infrastructure in those areas, give people a reason to go to those places for the day, give them activities to do there - they would then go and do that. They would have a fabulous experience and then they would go and stay locally. They would stay in the local pub. They would eat at the restaurant. They would drink at the café.

Let me point to an example. Dr Broad mentioned Derby. Derby is exactly that example. Many of those tracks, Dr Broad, are built in future potential production forest land and they were built there explicitly because they were reserved land. They are public assets. People go there for a day. They now stay in the local pub. They now eat at the local restaurants, they drink in the local cafes. Day activities are the way to go. It gives people the opportunity to stay in local accommodation.

This is a massive missed opportunity in terms of not only tourism for the north-west but tourism right across regional Tasmania by protecting these areas. Like the Deputy Leader of the Labor Party, I also want to read from the ABC story that first showcased this Dismal Swamp proposal. I will read from Clint Walker, the Circular Head Tourism Association President:

What we really need is a significant new attraction. Something that is going to draw visitors up to this part of the state. Only around 10 per cent of visitors to Tasmania make it to the north western corner and the region has been identified as missing out on the benefits that other parts of the state have experienced during its tourism boom.

I wonder why that is, Madam Deputy Speaker. We do not have a national park in the north-west that is dragging people up there. People have long argued for a Tarkine National Park and World Heritage Area; an icon that gives people a reason to turn right at Devonport when they get off the boat, Dr Broad, and gives them a reason to go there; but they are not going there. They are going to Freycinet National Park. They are going to the Cradle Mountain National Park. They are going to the Lake St Clair National Park. They are not going to go there. Why would you go and see a regional reserve or a conservation area when there are iconic national parks on offer elsewhere in the state? That is why the north-west is missing out - they do not have that icon.

Mr Walker went on to say:

We've been banging on for years, trying to urge the Government to come up and work with us so that we can try and improve our offerings and to grow our industry. We've tried our best to grow visitation and we just haven't been able to do it. We've been saying to those down Hobart way, it's our turn. What can we do?

What we can do is declare a Tarkine National Park and world heritage area and give people a genuine reason to go to the north west. Give them another brand attractor to go to that area.

All the surveys of people that come to Tasmania, consistently point to the fact that wilderness, wild places, our natural assets and our national parks are the main motivating factor. As we debate a proclamation, what a missed opportunity not to actually include more areas in this proclamation, not to actually upgrade their reserve status from regional reserve or conservation area and actually put it into a national park status. It is worth reminding the House of where the Dismal Swamp proposal came from.

Let us be real about Dismal Swamp, it was built at a time where Forestry Tasmania was desperately trying to greenwash its credentials. Desperately trying to point to the tourism benefits of forests and the coexistence of logging and forestry all at the same time. What a dismal failure it was. It really did not go very well.

Forestry Tasmania had three goes at this; they did the Tahune Airwalk, they did the Dismal Swamp and they did the Eagles Eyrie at Maydena above the sticks and you could argue that it is really only the airwalk that has walked.

Mr Jaensch - Hollybank.

Mr BAYLEY - Hollybank, correct me, that is correct. So, two out of four-

Mr Ferguson - All of them going pretty well.

Mr BAYLEY - Because they have got day activities in there that are dragging people. It is not for Forestry Tasmania's business. That is why we need a Tarkine national park and why the tourism sector and indeed the Government are still already trying to spin it that way.

I mean look at this document, reimagining our regions. Tasmania's far north west and I will read you the first paragraph from this document in its second chapter. (tbc 7.17.21)

The far north west region of Tasmania encompasses two local councils Waratah-Wynyard and Circular Head. The far north west spans an area of 8 5 thousand kilometers, just over 12 per cent of Tasmania's total land area.

This includes several reserves including Rocky Cape National Park, Savage River National Park, Arthur Pieman Conservation and more. The takayna/Tarkine temperate rainforest area occupies 447 000 hectares bounded by the Arthur River, the Murchison River, The Pieman River and the Southern Ocean.

They want a Tarkine National Park they want to pretend it is protected, the tourism sector is so desperate to have this area recognised as something that it isn’t, that it spins it as if it is protected and puts it in the same basket as the reserves. This is our opportunity, a proclamation like this is exactly our opportunity to do that to give the north west the icon they truly deserve and indeed, need if they are ever going to compete with Freycinet and Cradle Mountain. We need additional attractions; Freycinet, Cradle Mountain and other places.

They are collapsing under the weight of the people that are using them. They are collapsing under the weighted numbers of people who are loving these places to death. We need additional icons with day activities in them to drag people away from some of those over used areas and ensure the good Parks and Wildlife staff managing those areas can do it and it in a way ultimately sustainable.

I want to mention the proposed development on this site. It appears massive, a hundred plus motor homes and other issues. I want to make the point, here is another big development in a reserve area that is likely to be assessed ahead of long promised reforms to the processes against which these developments are assessed.

The reserve activity assessment. I know minister are no longer the minister for Parks, but you promised a reform to this area. You promised to make it a statutory process. You promised to include third party appeal rights. Yet, it keeps getting pushed out and out. I will ask you to address in summing up, will you commit to making sure that the reforms to the reserve activity assessment are in place before this tourism development is assessed? Will you make that commitment it is not just assessed against the RAA as it stands at the moment, but the new RAA that has improved mechanisms for accountability and improved rights for third parties to appeal any outcome.

Similarly, the Aboriginal Heritage Act. We have spoken about that several times across the last couple of days here, but you, yourself, came into this place two and a half years ago and said it does not work, does not provide effective mechanisms for protection.

Will you make a commitment no development, such as these private developments, will progress until those reforms have been passed? Because it is clear we need to do it. It is really clear in the legislation you are obliged to protect the natural and cultural values first. The National Parks and Reserve Management Act management objectives in schedule one is really clear when it comes to (? 7.20.57) reserved. It certainly encourages tourism. Point (j) is to encourage tourism. We accept that. To encourage tourism, recreational use and enjoyment consistent with the conservation of the regional reserve's natural and cultural values. That is abundantly clear. The natural and cultural values come first. There is an obligation to protect those values and if you can protect those values and deliver some kind of tourism recreation or other enjoyment, it needs to do so consistent with protecting those areas, consistent with the conservation of those values.

It is really clear in the act. It is very sad over recent years. The Lake Malbena development is no bigger case in point, where those natural and cultural values have certainly been sidelined, supressed, and the interests of tourism have been held supreme over the protection of natural and cultural heritage values.

In saying that, any improvement to the conservation status of Future Potential Production Forest land is welcome. This is utterly underwhelming in terms of its scale and ambition. It is utterly cynical in terms of the state of motivations for using this as a vehicle to allow a private commercial lease. It is completely disappointing the Government seems anchored to this nonsensical position of FPPF land to languish as some unallocated Crown land tenure. It is managed by Parks and Wildlife Service, they are not funded to manage it properly, there is no tenure certainty there for people who want to propose day trips. There is no tenure, certainly, for the Government itself to be investing in the kind of day activities we need in these areas. It is welcome that you take the step to protect this area, but sadly, you are doing it for all the wrong reasons.

It has to be said, the Greens in this place consistently argue the case to protect these areas more fully. There is a unique opportunity when it comes to the FPPF to deliver conservation and tourism opportunities hand in hand. Deliver those day activities in those areas so that people have a reason to spend more time in these forests, more days in those forests and spend their nights in the local community. In Swansea, on Bruny Island and in other local communities that need the assistance.

We will support the motion. We are never going to block improved reserve unless we have a good reason, such as the kooparoona niara Aboriginal owned national park proposal where we did oppose the declaration of that reserve because it was clearly a massive missed opportunity. Not only a missed opportunity, but a massive snub to the Aboriginal community. In this case, 98 hectares getting formally reserved under the Nature Conservation Act, is a cynical motivation, it utterly lacks ambition, but we are going to support it tonight.