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Parks RAAs - Tasmanian Audit Office Report

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Tags: Reserve Activity Assessments, Parks EOIs, Planning

Parks RAAs - Tasmanian Audit Office Report, Cassy O'Connor MP, 23 September 2020



Yesterday's Tasmanian Audit Office report evaluated 22 Parks reserve activity assessments and found that of these, only two had complete documentation. This would be inexcusable in any other statutory assessment process that had appeal rights. The Audit Office report also found that consultation on the RAAs is developer driven and the process is not suitable to deal with the quantity and complexity of projects generated by the expressions of interest process. Given the inadequacies with the process, the lack of appeal rights and the ability of RAAs to make objectively false assertions that cannot be challenged, will you concede that Parks RAA process is not fit for purpose?

Despite commitments from your predecessor that the process is under review, we have seen no discussion paper or terms of reference or consultation happen, and no details on what the revised system may look like. Given the current process is confirmed by the Auditor-General as not fit for purpose, will you suspend all assessments and begin consultation on a new statutory process for assessment of proposals for developments in public protected lands?



Madam Speaker, I thank the Leader of the Greens for her question and her interest in this matter of our beautiful parks that protect our important natural and cultural heritage, and the opportunity for Tasmania to be a leader in the world in protecting and presenting those parks in a sensitive and appropriate way that assists us to look after those values while also sharing it with other people and educating them.

The Auditor-General's report referred to in the Leader of the Greens' question found that the EOI process was, in all material aspects, implemented and administered effectively and in a manner consistent with the Government's policy objectives. In other key findings, there is no evidence to support allegations of undue secrecy of the process. The publication of information was timely and appropriately handled. The process and guiding principles are fundamentally sound and well supported by reference to authoritative guidance on ecotourism.

Staff were knowledgeable and diligent in relation to relevant issues. Ministerial authority was respected and appropriate communication channels used. The EOI process has been successful in contributing to the objectives of economic growth that were the purposes of its instigation by the Government.

To the Greens' tragic disappointment , the Auditor-General's report says this process is doing the job it was meant to do. The process is sound and fair and has an additional layer of assessment, checking and approval of projects before they even get to the gate of being assessed as activities in our parks and reserves systems -

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker, under Standing Order 45. Could you ask the minister to address his mind to the question? We confined the question to the Reserve Activity Assessment process, which the Auditor-General found is not fit for purpose.

Madam SPEAKER - Thank you. As you know, that is not a point of order, but I do ask the minister to try to address the question.

Mr JAENSCH - Thank you, Madam Speaker. It is a fairly ironic question, really, from the Leader of the Greens, because we know that the Greens hate process. They will take a protest over a process any day of the week.

The EOI process that the Auditor-General has reviewed and given a clean bill of health, a roadworthy certificate to, adds a layer over and above the Reserve Activity Assessment that is the same that operated under Labor and the Greens when they were approving tourism ventures in our parks and reserves, including in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, without any front-end assessment of any kind. It was a random process where people came up with unsolicited bids and talked to whoever in government to say, 'Can I come and build this?'.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker. Could the minister please address his mind to the question of Reserve Activity Assessments and the fact that the Auditor-General found that only two of 22 they were presented with had complete documentation?

Madam SPEAKER - Thank you very much. That is not a point of order, but minister, could you address the question?

Mr JAENSCH - Thank you, Madam Speaker. As I say, the Reserve Activity Assessments Ms O'Connor refers to is the same Reserve Activity Assessment process as applied when Labor and the Greens were in power and leases and licences were granted to tourism operators to work in our Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area and other national parks and reserves, and businesses which have continued to set the high bar for Tasmania's reputation as a place that could do this well.

What we have done is added an additional front end to that. You will see if you read the report the very large number of projects that entered that process that did not proceed for a range of reasons, because we have a front end which has been able to triage them out and say, 'There are certain things we do not want to have in our parks and reserves. These are the ones are attractive. We believe they can do the job and they should be allowed to go through to be assessed now as activities in our reserves. Previously there was not that gate ahead of them. The Greens hate due process, evidence and independent review. They hated it in the Major Projects debate.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker. Can the minister confirm he is answering on the basis of Luke Martin's media release? That is in front of him and he has been reading from it.

Madam SPEAKER - I do not think that is a point of order. Minister, please resume, but I warn you your five minutes has passed.

Mr JAENSCH - As I say, Madam Speaker, the Greens hate due process, they hate evidence, they hate independent reviews. They hated it in the major projects debate, they hate it in the EOI process and the RAAs. This sounds like Dr Seuss.

This is because these processes call out the Greens' hypocrisy and crazy venomous conspiracies and focus back on the facts. The Greens cannot handle the facts, including that we can have our unique, natural values and visit them too. Tasmanians can do this better than anybody else in the world. I call on the Greens to abandon their baseless, slanderous, venomous campaign against the EOI process, cease their personal attacks on individual proponents and public officials involved in the process and back this Government's belief that Tasmania can be a leader in sensitive, sustainable world-class nature-based tourism, like they used to.