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Lake Malbena and the TWWHA

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 29 September 2022

Tags: Lake Malbena

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, I move -

That the House take note of the following matter: Lake Malbena and the TWWHA.

Today the Greens are bringing on a matter of public importance debate about Lake Malbena inside the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

The expressions of interest process for development inside public protected areas was initiated very soon after the Liberals came to Government and it immediately created deep public concern. That concern only deepened when the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area Management Plan in 2015 16 was amended in such a manner that specifically enabled private commercial developments inside the TWWHA, developments that under previous management plans would have been explicitly prohibited.

Perhaps the most divisive of all the expressions of interest projects is the plan to establish a heli tourism project at Halls Island inside Lake Malbena by Daniel Hackett on behalf of the company, Wild Drake Pty Ltd. To date, this project has been rejected by the Central Highlands Council, the Supreme Court, the Federal Court and in the court of public opinion, and that is because it seeks to alienate everyday Tasmanians from a place they have been able to visit, free of charge other than the cost of a Parks pass, for generations. Now what Tasmanians understand is that this Government secretly signed over the historic Reg Hall's Hut and an entire island in the World Heritage Area to Daniel Hackett, and of course that is privatisation. For the privilege of having an entire island in the World Heritage Area, Mr Hackett pays the Parks and Wildlife Service a little over $100 a week.

Having been rejected by the planning authorities and rejected in the court of public opinion, Daniel Hackett is back and he has provided to the Australian Government's Environment department more material under a request for information process. For anyone who has a few hours to understand how damaging to wilderness values this project is, but worse in some ways administratively, how much the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service has worked to facilitate this development, I highly recommend reading the request for further information response put forward by Mr Daniel Hackett.

It makes a number of extraordinary claims. It claims that Mr Hackett is the owner of Halls Island and Halls Hut. When this matter came before the Federal Court, the judge in the Lake Malbena case asked incredulously, 'A private operator gets exclusive possession of a World Heritage Area?' Well yes, your Honour, that is exactly what has happened under this Government, and Mr Hackett is under the impression that Halls Island and the hut on there, Reg Hall's historic hut, belongs to him. We believe Reg Hall would be turning in his grave with Mr Hackett's plans.

So this proponent, who has exclusive use of a whole island in the World Heritage Area, in his documents to the EPBC Act has self-assessed that the noise from 240 helicopter flights each year would have very minimal impact on the wilderness. In fact, he does not use the term 'wilderness', he talks about a 'wilderness zone'. He says that in his view, and I am paraphrasing here, the former federal Environment minister, Sussan Ley, got it wrong when she said:

I found the anticipated loss of 700 hectares of high-quality wilderness area and the reduction in wilderness quality at over 4200 hectares would constitute a significant impact on these key values or attributes. I consider that the scale of the projected reductions in wilderness quality, including the size of the total area affected, mean that the impact on relevant values is substantial. I do not consider that the fact the proposed action area is situated on the edge of wilderness zone immediately adjacent to areas of lower wilderness quality, or the total size of the TWWHA, diminishes these impacts or otherwise means that they are not substantial.

So Mr Hackett and Wild Drake Proprietary Limited believe the previous Environment minister got it wrong, even though in her statement of reasons she makes it very clear she had enough information to make an informed decision.

There is a huge question mark over public access to Halls Island. Mr Hackett was on radio recently saying that if anyone wants to visit Halls Island, all they have to do is send him an email, so they have to seek permission from a private operator to go onto Halls Island and if they do not get that permission they can be charged with trespass. As we know, Mr Hackett has made thousands of anglers and walkers who do not agree with his proposal very furious, and they are concerned that he will not permit them onto Halls Island.

In his documents to the EPBC, Mr Hackett states the island is not a fire refuge, but there are in fact 1000-year-old pines on Halls Island that have never seen fire. The reserve activity assessment, which went to the federal government in the previous process, stated that there would be three full-time equivalent jobs. In the EPBC material that has been magicked up to 13 FTE. He stated on ABC radio in an interview with Mel Bush recently that he was the only investor, but ASIC searches state that he owns less shares than the two multimillionaires, John Topfer and Nicholas di Antoni . There are huge question marks about the money behind this proposal. He is claiming that solid walled huts are hybrid tents that are in conformity with the standing camp policy of Parks, but these will be permanent tents on Halls Island.

Perhaps most insultingly, he claims that trips of $5000 a head will be purchased predominantly by ordinary Tasmanians, but then claims they are for the super-rich. Which one is it? Everyday Tasmanians used to be able to access Halls Island for the cost of a Parks pass.

Mr Hackett is saying that if his proposal is not approved, Reg Hall's heritage listed hut will fall into disrepair. That is not a good enough reason for the new Environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, to approve this project and we call on her to reject it.