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State Growth - EOI Projects


Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Tags: Parks EOIs, Lake Malbena, State Budget, Coordinator-General

Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, how many expressions of interest have been lodged to date through the opaque expressions of interest process for development in protected areas?

Mr JAENSCH - My advice is that there has been a total of 65 proposals submitted to date, nine are now fully operational and 17 are under consideration through the RAA process.

Ms O'CONNOR - Is the 65 to date a combination of rounds 1 and 2, or is that the open-ended round 2 process?

Mr JAENSCH - A total of 65.

Ms O'CONNOR - How many have proceeded to lease and licence stage?

Mr JAENSCH - Eleven. Sorry, that's lease concluded and an additional 17 in total under consideration or assessment.

Ms O'CONNOR - How many of them are for commercial developments in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA)?

Mr JAENSCH - Under signed and operational, 4. Four have leases and licences signed, three are operational, 11 in the TWWHA are under assessment now, not their lease and licence applications.

Ms O'CONNOR - When you talked about 11 at lease and licence phase, those 11 are the ones that are in the TWWHA?

Mr JAENSCH - No.

Ms O'CONNOR - I'm not being difficult. I want to understand where the numbers are at.

Mr JAENSCH - Let us just go from the top. Of all the proposals, 65 that have been submitted so far, 11 have leases and licences signed. Four of those are in the TWWHA. Three of them in the TWWHA are operational.

Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, I want to go back to the opaque expressions of interest process for development in public protected areas.

Mr JAENSCH - It is not opaque.

Ms O'CONNOR - It certainly is opaque. There is no line of sight to any of the investment proposals for Tasmanians because the reserve activity assessment process is not a public process. It is true, unless it has an EBPC referral consultation process in it.

Mr JAENSCH - The premise of your question, you said there is no public live site which is untrue. Any project which comes through the expressions of interest process, if it is to proceed into an assessment of an RAA is published on the Coordinator General's website.

Ms O'CONNOR - I see. You regard that as transparency even though there is a confidentiality clause attached to every expression of interest.

Mr JAENSCH - That did not exist before our Government created it. Anyone could commence their RAA process without the public knowledge.

Ms O'CONNOR - We were not engaged in a large scale flog off of public land.

CHAIR - Order, Ms O'Connor. Excuse me, I gave you the call to ask a question, not to make a statement, Ms O'Connor.

Ms O'CONNOR - The statement was the preface to the question. I will get to the question. Of the four lease and licences which have been progressed for developments in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, how much detail can you provide on any of those proposals? What are they? Who are the developers and will any of them require an EBPC assessment?

Mr JAENSCH - Of those in the World Heritage Area that have leases and licences signed and are operational by virtue of having their relevant approvals and being operational they will have been assessed under all relevant legislation. If there was an EPBC process they cannot have proceeded to be operational without having satisfied the requirements of that.

Ms OCONNOR - I am talking about the four that have progressed to leases and licence stage in the TWHW.

Mr JAENSCH - Yes, there are three operational and they are Tasmanian Boat Charters a guided boat charter experience of Port Davy; Project Point Adventure a remote trekking and water transport adventure experience at the Gallagher Plateau north of the Huon River in the South West National Park and the Maydena Bike Park, a world-class mountain bike trail at Eagles Eyrie. They're the three that are operational.

Ms O'CONNOR - The question I asked was about the four that have been progressed to lease and licence stage in the TWWHA. What level of detail can you provide to the committee about those developments and whether any will require an EPBC Act assessment?

Mr JAENSCH - The fourth, for which there is a lease that is not operational, is Hall's Island, in Lake Malbena and it is still subject to the EPBC process.

Ms O'CONNOR - I need to disaggregate these numbers because now I'm confused. When I asked you earlier about the numbers you said four have progressed to lease and licence in the TWWHA and three are operational. You've talked about the three operational ones and none of them, to me, strike me as being about hard commercial infrastructure. Can you provide any detail on the four that have progressed to lease and licence stage? The ones that are not operational.

Mr JAENSCH - There are 11 under lease and licence assessment at the moment.

Ms O'CONNOR - I'm talking about the ones in the TWWHA.

Mr JAENSCH - There are 11 under lease and licence negotiation or assessment now. They would be listed on the Office of the Coordinator-General's website.

Ms O'CONNOR - Earlier when I was asking you for the numbers, 11 had gone to lease and licence and four of them were in the TWWHA.

Mr JAENSCH - There are 11 in total, four of which were in the TWWHA, had lease and licences signed. There are 17 overall under lease and licence negotiation now, 11 of which are in the TWWHA.

Ms O'CONNOR - There are 11 are in the TWWHA? You said earlier that four had progressed to lease and licence stage and they're in the TWWHA, but that's not the case -

Mr JAENSCH - Four had leases or licences signed in the TWWHA.

Ms O'CONNOR - Four signed in the TWWHA.

Mr EVANS - Three of which are operational, which are the three that the minister read out. Three of the four that have leases and licences are operating and one doesn't.

Ms O'CONNOR - And that's the Lake Malbena proposal?

Mr EVANS - Yes.

Ms O'CONNOR - Which I think you're going to lose, but anyway, moving right along.

Ms O'CONNOR - I wanted to talk about Experience Co, which is the ASX listed company that has bought Ian Johnson's former company. It has expressions of interest lodged for development on the South East Cape development at Darlington on Maria Island and the South Coast Track. The former developer who lodged these EOIs, Mr Ian Johnson, received in the vicinity of $3 million from the Government to progress these EOIs. Are you able to tell the committee where that money is, if it's been transferred to Experience Co, and also any further information that you have on these three expressions of interest?

Mr JAENSCH - I understand that the funding you're referring to is Australian Government funding, not Tasmanian. That was provided under the Regional Jobs and Investment Package. Matters relating to government funding programs and any contractual issues would be a matter for the Australian Government to respond to, Ms O'Connor.

As I understand it, the EOI panel has considered any other implications of Mr Johnson's decision to sell his business to Experience Co and they've advised that Experience Co appears to be a reputable operator which has the means to undertake the proposals and that there are no changes being proposed to the scope of the proposed projects. The panel's decision and any approvals that the panel provides aren't part of any statutory approvals process. They are the processing of an investment proposal as a precursor to considering those are RAA matters which, again, is a layer of scrutiny and assessment that didn't exist before this Government created it.

Ms O'CONNOR - I'm not going to risk getting in trouble with the Chair by challenging you on the opacity of the RAA process which is not public; but we will just establish -

Mr JAENSCH - You would need to ask the Minister for Parks questions about the RAA process.

Ms O'CONNOR - We have established that you apparently have no line of sight to the $3 million of public funding that went to Mr Ian Johnston from the federal government.

Mr JAENSCH - We are not a party to that contract, as I understand it. It's between Mr Johnston's company and the Australian Government.

Ms O'CONNOR - Yes, but there is a legitimate question over whether that $3 million in public funding went with Mr Johnston, or is now part of the arrangement with Experience Co. Are you telling me that the Government has no idea where that $3 million sits?

Mr JAENSCH - It's not our money and we're not a party to that contract, as I have advised.

Ms O'CONNOR - Has the Coordinator General met with the Director of Experience Co, or have you?

Mr JAENSCH - I haven't met the Director of Experience Co, and the Office of the Coordinator General has not.

Ms O'CONNOR - There's a major new player potentially in heavy infrastructure development inside the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area -

Mr JAENSCH - 'Heavy infrastructure' are your words.

Ms O'CONNOR - We've had discussions before where I had presented to you the evidence of the impact on wilderness values of huts in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, and you know full well that the impact on wilderness values is profound - that is, by the Greens assessment, 'heavy infrastructure'.

Mr JAENSCH - On the Greens scale of 'heavy'.

Ms O'CONNOR - No, on the scientific scale of 'heavy' actually; but I know that you are not particularly interested in the science around wilderness.

Are you able to provide any update on the EOI's for South East Cape, Maria Island and the South Coast Track? Are they at lease and licence phase? Where is it at?

Mr JAENSCH - While Mr Perry is getting that I will confirm that the projects - the South Coast Track, Huts Walk, South East Cape Walk and Maria Island Wildlife and Heritage Experience - whichever stage they're at are unchanged from their initial assessment and will be assessed through the process under the same conditions and through the same processes that they would have been originally and that the public will have the same opportunity to comment.

Ms O'CONNOR - Where?

Mr JAENSCH - Through that process.

Ms O'CONNOR - Where does the public have an opportunity to comment on that process?

Mr JAENSCH - Depending on the projects, through the RAA.

Ms O'CONNOR - That's simply untrue, minister. The Reserve Activity Assessment is not a public process, unless it goes to the Commonwealth for an environmental assessment.

Mr JAENSCH - Those projects are under lease and licence assessments.

Ms O'CONNOR - So, they are approved to lease and licence, or they're being assessed?

Mr JAENSCH - They are being assessed. They will be subject to a development application process under the Land Use and Planning Act (LUPA), and that's where the public process is afforded them.

Ms O'CONNOR - Do you expect any of them to go to EPBC assessment?

Mr JAENSCH - It's possible. If they need to be, they will.

Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, you said earlier that the South East Cape, Maria Island and South Coast Track EOIs are being assessed and that development applications are expected to be lodged under LUPA. Can you confirm that? The entire management plan was rewritten in 2016 that those developments are permitted uses and, therefore, heavily restricting the public's capacity to object.

Mr JAENSCH - Have you finished your question?

Ms O'CONNOR - Yes.

Mr JAENSCH - Okay. Just one moment.

Ms O'CONNOR - You should know the answer.

CHAIR - You can ask the questions, Ms O'Connor; you can't answer them as well.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thanks, Chair.

CHAIR - No worries.

Ms O'CONNOR - Regrettably. It would be a bit more honest answers at the table but, yes.

CHAIR - That's a subjective assessment as well, isn't it.

Ms O'CONNOR - Undoubtedly.

Mr TUCKER - The funny thing is, Chair, if she already knows the answer, why ask the question.

Ms O'CONNOR - Because we need the minister to confirm it.

CHAIR - Minister, the call is yours.

Mr JAENSCH - I can't confirm whether these particular projects would be considered permitted or discretionary under the planning schemes they've been applied for under. If you wanted to ask that question on notice, I would be happy to get more information for you. Mr Perry may have -

Mr PERRY - I just wanted to add that for those three projects that you've been talking about, Ms O'Connor, RAAs have not yet been submitted but, if they were, it would be assessed at level 3 and that would involve a public consultation process.

Ms O'CONNOR - Through the EPBC Act. Through the Commonwealth -

Mr PERRY - Through the RAA.

Ms O'CONNOR - Okay. Thank you for that. Minister, we need some clarification. The World Heritage Area Management Plan of 2016 specifically carved out a series of potential developments and, therefore, under the planning scheme as it works, because they're in the TWWHA management plan they are permitted uses, but if you want to take that on notice, that's fine, but that's the way the TWWHA management plan rewrite worked, isn’t it?

Mr JAENSCH - I understand that for projects submitted through the development assessment for a development approval process under LUPA, if they are for projects that occur in areas subject to management plans in parks, in the TWWHA, that there is a process for assessment under those relevant management plans.

Ms O'CONNOR - You are being quite evasive. The TWWHA Management Plan has a series of developments carved out in it that are now permitted uses.

I would like now to have a question on the proposed Cradle Mountain cable car. Your Government is turning Cradle Mountain into Disneyland. Are you able to provide any update to the House on which private investors have been approached, or where the money might be coming from for this gimmick cable car at Cradle Mountain?

Mr JAENSCH - First of all, I need to challenge your premise. 'Gimmick cable car', 'Disneyland' is your characterisation.

Ms O'CONNOR - As it is the Friends of Cradle Valley.

Mr JAENSCH - What I see is we have an opportunity, and this is a need that's been talked about since I first was involved in discussions regarding the future of Cradle Mountain 21 years ago -

Ms O'CONNOR - That is where the trouble started, hey?

CHAIR - Order, Ms O'Connor.

Mr JAENSCH - With growing visitation to that iconic site, we need to come up with a way of moving people in and out of the World Heritage Area that doesn't involve building bigger roads and filling them up with cars and buses, which you hate.

Ms O'CONNOR - So you are going to take the cars and buses off the roads? That would be nice.

Mr JAENSCH - Yes, we are coming up with an alternative way of getting people in and out which has a much smaller environmental footprint and, in itself, creates an experience. That is the whole idea of this.

Ms O'CONNOR - The question related to private investment.

Mr JAENSCH - The Australian and Tasmanian governments have committed $60 million to that project. It's all on the public record. That has been announced several times over. The work that is going on now, and at length, and led by the Office of the Coordinator General -

Ms O'CONNOR - It instills no faith at all.

Mr JAENSCH - I ask you to please respect the professional people we have doing this work.

CHAIR - I didn't hear the interjection but I ask you to stop, Ms O'Connor, and allow the minister to answer the question.

Ms O'CONNOR - I said it instils no faith.

Mr JAENSCH - The work being done is to try to identify a route and format for the footprint of that cableway that sits below the skyline, which involves the minimal number of pylons and supports, and that provides an experience which enables people to get in and out without affecting the experience of those who are already on the ground enjoying the environment there. There is a massive amount of work being done to get that right.

Ms O'CONNOR - The question related to private investment and whether private investors are being sought.

Mr JAENSCH - For the cableway itself? At this stage the investment committed is state and Australian government investment. But we would be looking to a private partner down the track.

Mr PERRY - We have not engaged with any other player in relation to investment into the cableway. It has been purely interactions with Government.

Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, have you or the Coordinator-General had any meetings or engagement with the Cambria Green proponents in the past year?

Mr JAENSCH - I have not. I will ask Mr Perry if he has.

Mr PERRY - No.