Ms O'CONNOR question to MINISTER for PARKS, Mrs PETRUSMA
On 10 March in this House I asked if you had an Aboriginal heritage report over the proposed south coast track luxury lodge development and whether it had been commissioned by the Government. You stated:
When we get the final RAA and undertake the assessments, the expectation is that Aboriginal cultural values assessments will be undertaken on each site, because that is the requirement for any development that would happen in the TWWHA.
In my hand is a right to information document that is 738 pages long with 658 pages, unsurprisingly, fully redacted. One thing not redacted, however, is a statement confirming that among the redactions is an Aboriginal heritage report that has been undertaken for this project. When you refused to confirm the existence of that report in this place, minister, were you misleading the House, or are you being kept in the dark about what is happening in your portfolio by your Parks secretary?
Mr Speaker, I thank the member for her question. In regard to what Ms O'Connor raised just now, the previous proponent, Mr Johnson, as part of his planning works to develop the required Reserve Activity Assessment process for the South Coast Track proposal, following a desktop assessment by Aboriginal Heritage Tasmania, the proponent engaged the services of a consulting archaeologist and aboriginal heritage officer to prepare an aboriginal heritage assessment report.
This report was provided to Aboriginal Heritage Tasmania for review following which Aboriginal Heritage Tasmania provided feedback to both the consultant and to the Parks and Wildlife Service, in relation to a number of issues identified in that report. But as I have said before in this House Mr Speaker, to date no final Reserve Activity Assessment addressing these issues has been provided to the Parks and Wildlife Service for assessment in relation to this proposal.
I note that any assessment by the Parks and Wildlife Service on the final Reserve Activity Assessment from this process will need to consider any impacts on aboriginal heritage along the South Coast Track. It is also important to note that the RAA process not negate the requirements for the issuing of a permit under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1975, if aboriginal heritage was to be impacted. To date, Mr Speaker, as far as I am advised, there has been no application for a permit, and no permit has been provided by the minister in relation to this proposal.
I am advised that the new owner of the proposed Wild Bush Luxury Experience Pty Ltd is currently working on engagement with the Tasmanian aboriginal people and the Aboriginal Heritage Council in relation to this proposal. In fact, Charles Carlow from Wild Bush Luxury had a letter enclosed in the RTI that Ms O'Connor is referring to and it states:
To whom it may concern, it is important to note that the Reserve Activity Assessment document released to you through the Right to Information request is dated. The information in this document was submitted to the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service by the previous proponent, not the current proponent, in 2019. It was a draft in order to receive feedback on further requirements to meet the approvals process. No further work has been carried out since that time by the previous proponent.
In December 2021 Wild Bush Luxury, a division of Experience Co, took on the previous proponent's business and, through that purchased the South Coast Track proposal. We are currently working on the proposal, with our first priority being engaging with the aboriginal communities in Tasmania.
If you would like further information on the proposal, please feel free to get in touch directly on the South Coast Track at experienceco.com.
The new proponent has made it quite clear. He has been in the Mercury, and he has stated: 'One of our core values in respect for the environment we work in is the cultures that exists within that environment, and certainly from our perspective, we are at our core very much about working with local communities, working with indigenous populations and providing opportunities for them in partnership economically and socially.'
As the secretary of the department stated on ABC radio earlier this year: 'Our expectation is that good consultation takes the form of co-design where the proponent sits down in the early stages of the proposal, and engages with Tasmania aboriginal people and the broader community -
Ms O'Connor - So, they have already approved it, basically.
Mr SPEAKER - Order, Ms O'Connor.
Mrs PETRUSMA - to discuss their aspirations, visions, possible job opportunities, or what other opportunities for involvement might look like. This is what the proponent have stated they are doing. So, Mr Speaker, our expectation is that full consultation will be taken with the aboriginal community, and that where required Aboriginal heritage assessment processes will be undertaken, as will any local, state and federal government processes.