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Lake Malbena Proposal - Family Reaction

Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 14 June 2022

Tags: Lake Malbena

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, when legendary fly fishing guide and author Greg French introduced Daniel Hackett to the daughter of Reg Hall and convinced her to sign over the licence for her father's historic hut at Lake Malbena in the World Heritage Area, both Greg and the Hall family were deceived about Mr Hackett's intentions for Reg Hall's hut and the island on which it sits.

That deception was the first in a long line of lies and half-truths that surround the proposed heli tourism operation at Lake Malbena that continues to this day. Reg Hall's son penned an emotive talking point published in the Mercury on behalf of the family, rejecting the proposal Mr Hackett claims they approve of. The very first sentence of that piece portrays the family's stress, something close to grief. He says:

I write in sadness about the planned destruction of the vision of my late father Reg Hall, who helped to nurture the wilderness of Tasmania.

… My father died in 1981. As his only son, I know that if he were alive today he would be appalled by the plans to expropriate Hall's Island - the island "home" used by fellow bushwalkers - for an eco tourism venture that includes 240 helicopter flights a year over the Tasmanian wilderness.

I ask both the federal and Tasmanian governments: take into account the vision of Reg Hall for this pristine speck on the world map and refuse permission for the proposal that's currently before you.

To this day, Daniel Hackett claims he had the support of Reg Hall's family. He does not. He deceived them in acquiring the licence by not disclosing his intentions for an exclusive heli tourism operation that will lock out everyday Tasmanians, bushwalkers and anglers who live the simple vision Reg Hall mapped out for Lake Malbena.

As recently as last week, the minister, Mrs Petrusma, made misleading statements about the original licence Reg Hall had over the hut and the status of the current exclusive possession lease over the entire island. The minister knows full well that Reg Hall only had a licence over the 35 square-metre hut that welcomed bushwalkers for decades. Hackett has been gifted the entire island by the Liberals under a secretly signed lease for a peppercorn rent.

Fast-forward to the latest state-sanctioned deception. Right to information documents include a letter signed by the director of DPIPWE to Daniel Hackett. This was the third letter of extension to the lease and differed from the first two in that this letter very clearly stated in relation to extending the time frame that for 'practical completion, date may not be extended beyond 1 December 2022.' In this context, that the date may not be extended, it is clearly stating that this is the last chance to proceed with this atrocious development.

Yet on 6 June, at the Estimates table, the minister confirmed details of a new deed. It extends the time frame as far as the minister and proponents want to make it. This is heartbreaking to the thousands of Tasmanians who oppose this development and to the Hall family.

But here is the issue with the new deed, signed by acting secretary Jason Jacobi last week. It comes back to the same right to information request. It is a letter signed by the then minister for Parks, Roger Jaensch. In this letter, Mr Jaensch is responding to a request from the heli tourism proponent, Mr Hackett, to remove a specific clause from the lease. The minister replies:

I have taken advice on this matter. It is the Government's position that the removal of the requested clause will not, in its own right, provide you with the ability to proceed with construction as asserted. In any event, I have given consideration to your request and determine that it is not appropriate to remove the clause.

The minister said that removal of the clause is 'not appropriate'. The minister said that they formed this view from advice, presumably advice from Crown Law. So, why, on 6 June this year, in a deed of variation to Mr Hackett's lease, did Mr Jacobi sign off on the removal of that exact clause from the lease?

The minister had stated in writing, 'it is not appropriate to remove that clause'. Who is running the department, Mr Speaker? Is it the minister or is it Mr Jacobi? Or is it, in fact, property developers?

Let us have a look at some other alterations to the lease Mr Hackett requested - or, should I say, demanded:

Removal of the word 'hut'. New huts are prohibited from this part of the World Heritage Area, and rightly so. Throughout the Parks-endorsed reserve activity assessment, the proposal is referred to as involving 'huts' multiple times. The proponent's original application used the word 'hut'. RTI documents now show that on 21 February this year, Daniel Hackett wrote to Parks and told them to remove the word 'hut' and replace it with 'standing camp', and that is exactly what was done.

What is the point of having a management plan for the World Heritage Area when developers can conspire with senior bureaucrats and ministers to wordsmith their way around prohibitions on use? Changing words does not change facts.

The Government rezoned a wilderness area because the developer told them to, extended their lease three times because the developer told them to, removed words from the lease because the developer told them to, removed clauses from legal agreements because the developer told them to, leased an entire island in the absence of a development application because the developer told them to. What else has this developer been telling Government to do?

There are serious questions to answer in relation to this most recent deed that extends the rotten proposal at Lake Malbena yet again. The threat of hundreds of helicopters into this serene and wild place will remain for just two jobs - two jobs that have put an entire community off side and exposed a once great parks service as a sad joke, one that whimpers how high when developers tell them to jump. There needs to be a root-and-branch review of how this new deed came to be and why it was effectively written by the developer and signed by the head of the Parks and Wildlife Service.

History will not be kind to anyone who hitched their wagon to this dodgy proposal because those who oppose it will not go away. They understand Reg Hall's vision and they will not be deceived again.