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State Development, Construction and Housing – Parks EOIs

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 6 June 2023

Tags: Parks EOIs, State Budget

Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, while we have the Coordinator-General in the room, ask some questions for an update on the EOI process which hopefully we can come back to after lunch, but to get started.

There has been a problem with land-banking where proponents put their hands up for an EOI through this opaque process, set up by your predecessor and a former premier. What steps has the Office of the Coordinator-General taken to ensure proponents who have been accepted as an EOI proponent, are actually progressing their proposals and not land-banking. I say that with the caveat we do not support the expressions of interest process for development inside public protected areas and equally we do not support land-banking by private developers who see our protected areas as the last free real estate.

Mr BARNETT - Chair, I do not know how long we have to respond.

CHAIR - One minute.

Mr BARNETT - The Greens do not support a lot of developments in Tasmania including Tourism Developments, including the EOI process which we put in place. It is all about growing our economy, supporting more jobs, particularly in our natural areas and the process proactively encourages further tourism opportunities in our natural areas.

CHAIR - Thank you, the time has now concluded. We will return here at 2.00 p.m. and continue with the same session.

CHAIR - Minister are you happy to continue? Have we got everyone here?

Mr BARNETT - Absolutely delighted. Thank you, Chair. I think we were partially answering the Leader for the Greens regarding the EOI process. I am happy to add to that and then we can pass to the Coordinator-General.

In June 2022 we enhanced the tourism EOI process. We got feedback from the Auditor General and various key stakeholders including the Tourism Industry Council. It was strengthened and made more rigorous. The EOI process was enhanced. As a Government we are very pleased and supportive of the EOI process. Having said that, I am happy to pass to the Coordinator-General to add to that answer and answer further questions.

Mr PERRY - I am just checking you were asking about the updates we had in relation to projects were in the process that some had said were land banking.

Ms O'CONNOR - Around concerns over land banking.

Mr PERRY - There were 18 organisations that were written to every organisation that had approvals under way and it was listed that had not completed that approval process. They were written to in late June of last year and were requested to provide updates on progress within six months. Information was collected and collated. The assessment panel has met twice this year. Four proponents withdrew from the process as a consequence of that engagement and the assessment panel has compiled and finalised its recommendations. Those recommendations are going through the probity process and will go to ministers for their consideration and determinations imminently.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you, Mr Perry. Minister, are the expressions of interest statistics the information that's available on the Office of the Coordinator-General's website an accurate picture of the current state of the EOIs? This may be a question that you want to defer.

Mr BARNETT - Thank you for the question and I think it is definitely a question for the Coordinator - General.

Mr PERRY - Yes, they are. We regularly update the website. I think the last time it was updated was yesterday or the day before.

Ms O'CONNOR - Are fresh EOI projects still being received?

Mr PERRY - Yes, through you, minister. There are, I think, we have received three in this current financial year and we received three in the previous financial year.

Ms O'CONNOR - When will those new proponents be published? When will that become public information, through you, minister?

Mr PERRY - They are published as soon as the assessment panel has made a recommendation and the respective ministers have considered and endorsed those recommendations.

Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, I have a question for you. I don't think it would be fair to ask Mr Perry to answer this. It is apparent that the EOI proposal over the South Coast Track has divided the community and it's very unpopular with those who already use the track now. It has been rejected by the broad Tasmanian Aboriginal community and UNESCO.

Mr BARNETT - Which track are you talking about?

Ms O'CONNOR - South Coast. The world's last great unspoiled coastal wilderness. UNESCO has stated developments like this in the World Heritage Area should not progress at all until their strict guidelines are met. Will you put a pause on any commencement of works on the South Coast Track at the very least until such time as those guidelines are met and UNESCO and the Tasmanian Aboriginal community are satisfied?

Mr BARNETT - That is clearly a relevant question for the Minister for Parks, minister Jaensch. In terms of the EOI process but in terms of the Parks minister that is directly relevant to him.

Ms O'CONNOR - A final question in this line of questioning, Chair. Has there been any changes to the expressions of interest process to improve outcomes, transparency and the protection of Aboriginal heritage? This goes back to the commitments in the July 2021 report into the review of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Heritage Act so it was tabled a couple of years ago and, as far as we can understand, there's been no change in engagement on Aboriginal heritage. So if the changes are made, are they applied to existing expressions of interest processes like the South Coast Track, for example?

Mr BARNETT - Thank you very much for the question. I did refer to the enhancements which were very comprehensive in and around mid 2022. A lot of that's now rolled out but in terms of adding to that answer I'm sure the Coordinator General could assist the committee.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you. There's a level of dissatisfaction from within the Aboriginal community and that's not directed at the Coordinator General, but I'm happy for him to answer, of course.

Mr PERRY - The assessment process undertaken by the assessment panel has also been refreshed to provide the Aboriginal Heritage Tasmania and, where appropriate, such other potential when there's a potential impact on Aboriginal heritage has been identified in the proposal concept stage, also, the Aboriginal Heritage Council with the opportunity for input on every proposal early in the assessment process and that's built on the existing process where the panel has been able to seek advice from a variety of different areas which includes AHT, MRT, Crown Law and the Parks and Wildlife Service.

Ms O'CONNOR - Would it be fair to say that on the ground as yet there's not much of a positive effect necessarily in outcomes for Aboriginal people?

Mr BARNETT - I'll provide a two-part answer to that. First of all, we are aware of the Greens' strong opposition to the EOI process for our national parks and natural -

Ms O'CONNOR - We’d like to see you put those developments in towns around protected areas where they would deliver lasting economic benefits to those communities, but carry on.

Mr BARNETT - Thank you for the opportunity to answer the question in two parts. As I say, the Greens oppose the EOI process for our national parks and natural areas -

Ms O'CONNOR - We support the protection of natural values.

Mr BARNETT - and we've provided those enhancements and provided significant improvements to the process, in our view. I think the Coordinator General has outlined the changes in terms of the process. If you'd like to add, please feel free.

Ms O'CONNOR - No, I think that was enough.

Mr BARNETT - I am not sure if there was anything further that can be said but please add if you can.

Ms O'CONNOR - That's fine.