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Lake Malbena Tourism Proposal

Vica Bayley MP

Vica Bayley MP  -  Wednesday, 15 November 2023

Tags: Lake Malbena, Planning

Mr BAYLEY (Clark) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on adjournment to talk about the Halls Island chopper access luxury huts. The helicopter access tourism proposal to Halls Island on Lake Malbena first emerged in 2016 as one of the first proposals under this Government's 'Unlock the Parks' policy expression of interest process, encouraging proponents to defy management plans over protected areas for their tourism fantasies. Ironically this proposal served to lock up previously freely accessible public land.

Even though we have seen two premiers and countless ministers move on since then, the Lake Malbena proposal still hangs over us. It has been rejected by the Central Highlands Council, the Aboriginal Heritage Council, the National Parks and Wildlife Advisory Council and the full bench of the Tasmanian Supreme Court. But still the proponent persists, withdrawing the proposal from state processes and submitting it for federal EPBC assessment.

At this point, over 5000 community members and groups have made submissions against this project while the proponent submitted supporting documentation based on his own studies - studies that are unpublished and not peer reviewed, yet still the Liberals back him .

The federal Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water is currently assessing this project and considering all of the submissions. They have been so overwhelmed by the amount of submissions, and the quality of them, that they have had to postpone a decision on three occasions.

Lake Malbena sits in sublime country, visited since before time was recorded by the palawa people. It is important hunting and habitation country. It is also World Heritage-listed land, listed for its outstanding universal values. It sits alongside privately owned land, trowmakamener This area is also loved deeply by the bushwalking and back-country fishing communities for its peace, solitude and as a world-class trout fishery.

Yesterday, the federal Environment department was again forced to delay making a decision on the proposed helicopter tourism development at Lake Malbena. The information provided by the proponent has been exposed as profoundly inadequate. Now the federal government is having to do the work the Tasmanian Government has failed to do.

The department has requested a thorough cultural heritage assessment report which describes the Aboriginal heritage values of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area that could be impacted by the project. This is hugely significant. The Tasmanian Greens have long called on the Tasmanian Government to complete this assessment over the entirety of the World Heritage Area. This has been a condition required by UNESCO before any development should be considered in the TWWHA. The Government has continually refused to acknowledge this and now the feds have called them out.

This impacts the Liberals' 'Unlock the Parks' policy and the EOI process designed to facilitate development over protected areas. Any and every EOI proposal for the World Heritage Area will need to satisfy this component under EPBC. The state Government has failed miserably to address this issue. In the Lake Malbena case, the reserve activity assessment, signed off by Parks, showed a woefully inadequate level of consultation with the Aboriginal and broader community. A desktop assessment was produced that failed comprehensively to recognise the values so clearly identified by UNESCO and all those that understand the significance of that country.

Crucially, the Malbena proponent will finally be required to enter a genuine consultation with the Aboriginal community and the owners of trow , a community who has consistently opposed this development and made submissions in opposition due to the impacts on their country and cultural practices. The proponent previously failed to consult with the Aboriginal community and has consistently ignored their expressed concerns. It is time he showed some respect and walked away for good.

Additionally, the department has asked for the proponent to consider the retrospective Statement of Outstanding Universal Value for the World Heritage Area, recently adopted by the World Heritage Committee. This is the definitive statement on why the World Heritage Area is so significant. The Halls Island proposal has already demonstrated it will compromise those values, with extensive impacts on wilderness values and threatened species.

Halls Island is also home to a historic bush hut built in 1952 as a shelter for highland explorers by Reg Hall, a legend of the Tasmanian high country, oft referred to as the father of the Walls of Jerusalem. This hut was signed over to the Wild Drake director by Reg's daughter in 2016 under the condition that he would act as a faithful custodian to her father's legacy, would faithfully maintain it, never build new structures on the island and not use helicopters to access the island.

The Hall family has been betrayed from day one of Wild Drake taking possession of that lease. To date, there has been no apparent maintenance and the old hut is suffering from the effects of multiple winters without any curation. It is a unique heritage listed structure in danger of collapse. Access to Halls Island has been declined to several people who wished to do maintenance on the hut, people who wished to ensure its survival. For these and many other reasons, it is time to tear up Wild Drake's lease so that those who care can save a special part of Tasmanian folklore and end this farcical situation.

Most importantly, the Tasmanian Government must immediately scrap the EOI process and show some understanding and respect for the Aboriginal community, for Aboriginal country, Aboriginal people and UNESCO by completing a comprehensive cultural heritage assessment over our unique, irreplaceable World Heritage Area.

The Tasmanian Government must also move as soon as possible to update the reserve activity assessment process to ensure that it has appeal mechanisms for third parties and is a statutory process.

Halls Island has been a scar on the landscape, not only of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area but on the way the Tasmanian Government applies itself to the protection of heritage, honours Australia's obligations under the World Heritage Convention and respects the wishes of the Tasmanian community. It is an indictment on the Tasmanian Government's approach that the federal government is having to step in and ensure that the proper process and adequate assessment is carried out. We look forward to the minister's decision in due course.