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Parks – Lake Malbena

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 7 June 2023

Tags: Lake Malbena, Parks EOIs, State Budget

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you. Minister, can I ask in response to the Greens' question on notice asking why the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service was a party, alongside Wild Drake Pty Ltd in the Supreme Court case, it was stated that the director, Mr Jacobi, had, 'a direct interest in this matter' as he provided advice to the proponent to split his project in two to assist its approval, while also sitting on an assessment panel for the project.

Do you think this is appropriate that the director of Parks would be guiding a proponent about how to get a project through the assessment while also sitting on the assessment panel for the project? I mean, it could be an only-in-Tasmania thing, but it fails the sniff test.

It feels like time-wasting, I have to say. For the purposes of Hansard, we've waited for more than a minute for you to find a brief for a question which is actually a policy and philosophical question.

Mr JAENSCH - I'm trying to find an answer for your question that is accurate, which I think I owe you in this forum.

Ms O'CONNOR - That's nice.

Mr JAENSCH - I can't find what I'm looking for.

Ms O'CONNOR - Just as a broad principle. Just to remove the person.

Mr JAENSCH - This is not about generalities, this is about a specific case and I need to be correct. Mr Jacobi is putting the matters that you've raised into some context. I would be happy for him to speak on those.

Mr JACOBI - Thank you, minister. The first question was that I somehow had an involvement or direct interest in approving the development.

Ms O'CONNOR - No, I said a direct interest in the matter, that you were party alongside the proponent.

Mr JACOBI - You asked multiple questions, Ms O'Connor and I am trying to address each one specifically. One of the things I heard was that you suggested that I was involved in the approval of a project.

Ms O'CONNOR - I said you were on the assessment panel.

Mr JACOBI - I was on the assessment panel, but I wasn't on the assessment panel at the time that the project was approved to progress to lease and licence negotiations. Let's be very clear, I was not on the panel at the time that that project was approved by the EIO panel. At the time.

Subsequent to that, yes, I was on the assessment panel because the Parks and Wildlife Service provides high-level advice to the panel members about every proposal that is involved with Parks-managed land.

The second statement that you made was that I advised the proponent to split the project. That is not true. The proponent had two phases to his project. The first phase was the development of the standing camp. The second phase was a series of recreational activities which involved bushwalking into the surrounding hills. He and I had a conversation about that as part of his assessment process and he subsequently decided to remove that from his project. He wrote to the Aboriginal community at the time. He also has never proceeded with that phase of the project.

Ms O'CONNOR - I should think not, given the Aboriginal heritage.

Mr JACOBI - Are there any other matters you wanted me to raise?

Mr JAENSCH - I think that he has responded to the matters that Ms O'Connor has raised. It is entirely appropriate for Parks staff to provide advice and direction to proponents during the course of the process.

Ms O'CONNOR - Then sit on an assessment panel for a project that will degrade wilderness values.

Mr JAENSCH - I think Mr Jacobi has talked about the sequence of his involvement in the context of your question. So, I stand by his answer.

Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, we've just received a bit of extra information and this is just for your benefit. Tas Walking Company has apparently recently received a permit for lethal baiting around those huts on the Overland Track. We don't think they would be able to be approved for that if native species were at risk of being poisoned. I will park that with you for now. It is more of an infill comment.

Minister, as specified in the deed of variation between the minister for Parks and Wild Drake Pty Ltd, has there been a review of the rent to be paid by Wild Drake? If so what's the new agreed amount for the period up to and including practical completion of the development works and after the date of practical completion? Our understanding is that the deed of variation states that the market rent review date is 19 January 2023. The last time we checked I think the proponent had the island and the hut for around $100 a week, which is nice work if you can get it.

Mr JAENSCH - My advice is that Halls Island has been under licence since 1957 as a shack and a recreation site with Ms McQuilkin taking -

Ms O'CONNOR - But it wasn't an exclusive use licence.

Mr JAENSCH - I am going to give you the information I have here.

Ms O'CONNOR - I am just telling you what's true.

Mr JAENSCH - Taking occupation in 1980 and later transferring the licence over the island to Mr Hackett during 2016 at a time when the rental was set at $191 per annum. I am advised that the Parks and Wildlife Service has commissioned evaluations since that time to determine fair and reasonable rental returns to the state occurring during 2017 to inform lease arrangements and were again repeated earlier this year in 2023. Two separate rental arrangements applied to Halls Island, one being for the island, one being for the heritage-

Ms O'CONNOR - Whole island, exclusive use under your Government. Shame on you.

Mr JAENSCH - Which also includes the surrounding five-metre curtilage area around the building and the formed tracks necessary to provide access and egress to the site. The initial rental arrangements at commencement of the agreement were $1000 ex-GST per annum for Halls Island and $2000 ex-GST per annum for the hut. Following the recent independent valuations, rentals have since increased to $4500 ex-GST per annum for Halls Island and $2200 ex-GST for the hut. The independent valuer conducted their own market research to calculate appropriate rental terms which were then reviewed by the Office of the Valuer-General.

The decision of the independent valuer was undertaken in consideration of the site's remote location, the absence of services and infrastructure and after considering similar market arrangements both within Tasmania and other Australian states. It's important to note that the rental is not for the proposal itself or consideration of any future development as no approvals are in place. The rental agreements will continue to be reviewed in line with the terms and conditions set out in the relevant lease agreements and the deed of variation.

Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, to confirm, under your Government a single proponent can have exclusive use of an island for 20 years, I believe it is, for less than $100 a week. I want to go to the question that was asked by the Chair and just expand -

Mr JAENSCH - It's not real estate.

Ms O'CONNOR - It is a whole island in the TWWHA that you've given a developer exclusive use of for $100 a week.

Mr JAENSCH - But not for their development.

Ms O'CONNOR - You have given them the island-

Mr JAENSCH - You are characterising this in your way for your purposes and I need to take -

Ms O'CONNOR - I'm just applying a logic lens.

Mr JAENSCH - the opportunity to ensure that it is in the appropriate context.