Dr WOODRUFF question to MINISTER for CORRECTIONS, Ms ARCHER
The northern prison is going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars but the decision for the site has been mired in secrecy and Westbury residents were not consulted -
I will start that again.
Mr FERGUSON (Bass - Leader of Government Business) - Could we just take a minute, please.
Madam Speaker, I would like just to inform you and the House that we are doing our best. I think we have had a miscommunication with the Greens.
Ms O'Connor - Yes, we did. I apologise. I missed your call.
Mr FERGUSON - And we have sorted it. I invite you to allow the member to start her question again.
Dr WOODRUFF - I did have the conversation but here we are now. I did have the conversation but there might have been a miscommunication. I think I have made it clear.
My question is to the Minister for Corrections.
The northern prison is going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars but the decision for the site has been mired in secrecy and Westbury residents were not consulted. It is clear you did not do due diligence before this decision.
You and the Premier have repeatedly said the site is not a reserve but just a bush block with no important values. A Right to Information requests shows a confidential DPIPWE assessment from 2016 of this reserve - and I have it here - which identifies it meets the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) criteria for conservation, has the endangered masked owl and Tasmanian devils on site and wedge-tailed eagle nests close by. DPIPWE recommended the site have permanent protection.
In 2018 DPIPWE informed the federal government this site was part of the National Reserve System, is protected with a binding agreement, was purchased to become a protected area and that gazettal of the reserve was in progress.
How can you continue to deny to Tasmanians the prison site is a reserve with values that should be protected? Will you admit the decision to choose this site was made in a panicked rush that has resulted in an ill-advised costly, inappropriate location that is fraught with significant and unresolvable issues?
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her question. It gives me an opportunity to put some facts on the table in relation to this new selected site, particularly in relation to the history of the site. The Greens are probably following on from an RTI document, but all of that information has been released to the media over several weeks, for a sustained period of time.
We have been quite open about the fact that the site was originally purchased from a private landholder because it was believed it may have contained a specific forest type which had been significantly reduced by agricultural development and was not well reserved. Subsequent investigation revealed that the site did not contain this forest type. Instead it contained a similar, but not threatened, forest type.
The site is unallocated Crown land -
Madam SPEAKER - Order, please. I ask Ms O'Connor and Dr Woodruff to contain themselves.
Ms ARCHER - Thank you, Madam Speaker. It is important for me to set the record straight with some facts.
The site is unallocated Crown land. The land being listed as an informal reserve does not mean that this land is reserve land.
Ms O'Connor - It is part of the National Reserve System.
Ms ARCHER - It is not a reserve. It is a title that has somehow become factual by the Greens and others who make up terminology.
Dr Woodruff - DPIPWE advice from 2016 and 2018.
Madam SPEAKER - Order, Dr Woodruff.
Ms ARCHER - It is an informal reserve, which does not make it a reserve. The site does not contain pristine forest -
Dr WOODRUFF - Point of order, Madam Speaker. The minister is misleading the House. An informal reserve is a reserve. It is listed as part of the National Reserve State. The minister should not be misleading the House on this matter. It is very clear.
Madam SPEAKER - Sorry, that is not a point of order.
Ms ARCHER - It is an informal reserve. That is quite a distinct and separate category to a reserve. The history of the site was something that it was thought to have a specific forest type; it does not require that protection.
Dr Woodruff - Endangered species are there. The department found them.
Ms ARCHER - It does not contain pristine forest but shows evidence of a very long history of timber harvesting and more recently illegal firewood collection, stock grazing, rubbish dumping and shooting on site.
Dr Woodruff - Have you actually been there?
Madam SPEAKER - Order, Dr Woodruff. Warning one.
Ms ARCHER - Yes, I have. The site has not been actively managed by the Crown and is not the responsibility of DPIPWE's Private Land Conservation Program. The site does not contain the values for which it was originally purchased, indeed, for more than a decade consideration has been given to allowing the land to be sold with the intention of even allowing a proportion of the land to be cleared for a residence.
The Government's proposal is consistent with that approach. The prison's proposed design will occupy less than one quarter, which is approximately 15 hectares of the 70-hectare site with the remaining vegetation to be retained. That will provide ample opportunity for the remaining area to be formally reserved if we wish to, and given the protection that it currently does not enjoy.
Dr Woodruff - Admit you made a mistake.
Madam SPEAKER - Order, Dr Woodruff.
Ms ARCHER - We have given careful consideration and we have conducted preliminary due diligence. We are continuing to look at the design and the location on the site to best deal with issues that arise. We are very well aware of the decision in relation to land use and bushfire risk. As with any development, all those matters of fire management and environmental factors, will be considered as part of the normal approval process.