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Tourism - EOI Projects

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Monday, 6 September 2021

Tags: Parks EOIs, State Budget

Dr WOODRUFF - Premier, you'd know that Ian Johnstone sold his company, Maria Island Walk and its three expression of interest proposals - the South Coast Track Walk, the South East Cape Walk and the development of Atkins House at Darlington on Maria Island - to the company called Experience Company. Experience Co is ASX listed. Do you see how ASX listed businesses can be bad news for Tasmania's wilderness? Look at what happens to the salmon industry when it's become ASX listed. Anyone who lives in the Huon would have seen a devastating change in behaviour from Huon Aquaculture when it became ASX listed.

Mr GUTWEIN - You have an extraordinary view. Again, you've argued with me because I pulled you up for frightening kids with some of your language. I find it extraordinary.

Dr WOODRUFF - We'll never resile from repeating what scientists say. We're never going to resile from talking about the science.

CHAIR - Order, Dr Woodruff, you are not a member of this committee. I will ask you to leave if you continue to interject and then speak over the top of me when I ask you to stop.

Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you, Chair.

Mr GUTWEIN - I have very little concern in that regard, probably the same level of concern that I have about the matter that my bank is listed on the ASX. It doesn't concern me at all. Many companies are.

Dr WOODRUFF - Premier, I think it's a matter of fact that ASX-listed companies are required to put their shareholder interests and the profits of their shareholders first and foremost. In the instance of an ASX-listed company involved in commercial activity in a protected wilderness area cannot, by definition, be the first priority for that business.

This is a thing which is splitting the industry. It is a matter of deep concern for people in Tasmania who are working gently in wilderness areas, that the expression of interest process is not the way forward for protecting wilderness values in Tasmania. What do you say to people like Mr Shannon Wells and Ms Thurston-Regan who are very concerned about the level of commercial activity that is planned for Maria Island. It will be a step up, with commercial buildings, and a step down in terms of protecting wilderness.

Mr GUTWEIN - In terms of people who are investing, whether they are an ASX listed company or not, the golden goose, so to speak, is the wilderness values we have. I find it extraordinary that you can draw a link between a company that might be linked on the stock exchange as having no corporate sense in terms of ensuring they take care of the very thing people are coming to see, which is the reason they have invested. I am struggling, I cannot understand your position.

Dr WOODRUFF - The fact is that your Government has set out a secretive expression of interest process -

Dr WOODRUFF - The fact is that your Government has set out a secretive expression of interest process

Mr GUTWEIN - No we haven't.

Dr WOODRUFF - And ASX-listed companies are benefiting secretly from that. The South Coast Track and Experience (indistinct) was Ian Johnstone. These have been handed out, Lake Malbena and South Coast Track. They have been handed out to companies in a secret process. There is no doubt that this is splitting the industry.

Mr GUTWEIN - The process is not secret. I will get some advice and I will speak a bit more about the EOI process.

Dr WOODRUFF - It happens that some of them are also ASX-listed in addition to being part of a secret process.

CHAIR - Do you have a question, Dr Woodruff?

Dr WOODRUFF - I would like the Premier to acknowledge that the EOI secret process is incapable of protecting wilderness values.

CHAIR - That is not a question, Dr Woodruff and you are not in a position to make demands from the minister about acknowledging anything. You get to ask questions and he gets to answer them.

Dr WOODRUFF - I will rephrase that. I will ask the Premier whether he agrees or disagrees with that statement?

Mr GUTWEIN - To be frank, you have given me an insight into some of your thinking in the last half an hour. I am going to be disagreeing with a lot more of the things that you are saying. I have never heard such conspiracy waffle as to what you have gone on with, to be frank.

Dr WOODRUFF - Are you serious?

Mr GUTWEIN - I am serious.

Dr WOODRUFF - I don't have time to talk about all the examples.

Mr GUTWEIN - It is extraordinary. With regard to the EOI process, I make the point that even the Auditor-General's report came up that we had followed process. It was measured against his audit criteria. In all material aspects, it was implemented and administered effectively. I made the point ad nauseam that it is now a more transparent process than anything that existed, even when the Greens were in government with Labor.

Dr WOODRUFF - That is completely not true.

Mr GUTWEIN - That is true and you know that is true. You know what I am saying is correct.

Dr WOODRUFF - The United Nations has called you out on this, UNESCO.

Mr GUTWEIN - I find it extraordinary. Do you have another question about conspiracies before we move on? We might as well deal with all of them.

Dr WOODRUFF - Premier, we were talking before about the expressions of interest process being, and I called it 'secretive'. The second round of the expression of interest process has a confidentiality clause in it. By definition, the process is secret and even developers are gagged. I don't understand why you continue to perpetrate the untruth that it is not a secretive process.

Mr GUTWEIN - What used to happen with these types of developments before we came to Government was that governments used to secretly make the decision. Now we advertise and we have a rolling expression of interest process. Projects are brought forward. The Coordinator-General and his team do an initial assessment as to whether or not the project has the potential to benefit the interests of the state and also whether it is deliverable.

Once it has been through that process, there are a number of projects that are turned down. Projects are then made public and they go through the normal reserve activity assessment process. They may need to go through the planning process and negotiations for lease and licence as well.

That is all made public. It didn't happen in the past. There are thousands of leases before this Government came to power that were issued by governments that had nowhere near the transparency that occurs here. We are running a more transparent process than what occurred in the past. The fact that you don't like the process or don't like the developments won't change that. It is more transparent. That is a statement of fact.

Dr WOODRUFF - Premier, it is a statement of fact that you are gaslighting Tasmanians by coming up with spin. The difference between now and the previous government is that before you came to Government there wasn't a policy in place to privatise Tasmanian wilderness. Once you have changed the management plan to enable privatising Tasmanian wilderness, then making an expression of interest process open is a pointless exercise because you have already changed the goals. It is not just the Greens and the conservationists but there are many people in the tourism sector who deeply abhor this process -

CHAIR - We need a question, Dr Woodruff.

Dr WOODRUFF - Do you understand the concerns that have been raised by the Tasmanian Wilderness Guides Association, who are the back bone of Tasmania's outdoor nature tourism industry? They are deeply concerned about the conflict of interest, particularly around the Maria Island draft plan and the consultation process on that. On the one hand a department is trying to privatise the wilderness and on the other hand they are talking about what changes need to happen on Maria Island. They are very concerned about the commercialisation.

Mr GUTWEIN - I will take that as a comment. The EOI operational projects, for the benefit of the Committee, are Blue Derby pods rides which are mountain bike tours and pod style accommodation. That was a project. The Narawntapu adventures precinct operating as Cradle Country Adventures which offers Bakers Beach horse riding experience and homestead accommodation; the Freycinet Lodge extension which is an extension to the current lodge; Tasmanian Boat Charters, all-inclusive boat expedition to Port Davey, Bathurst Harbour and south west Tasmania; Project Point Adventure, a remote trekking and water transport venture; the Maydena Bike Park, the development of a world-class mountain bike trail centre with a range of ancillary activities; Rotorlift Aviation, access to Tasman Island by helicopter; E-bike Adventures, soft adventure tourism adventures using electric mountain bikes at Maria Island and Australian Horse Adventures, specialised horse riding tours around Stanley featuring Highfield House.

Dr WOODRUFF - Derby is not in a national park, Freycinet -

CHAIR - Order, Dr Woodruff.

Mr GUTWEIN - People listening to your rhetoric would be of the view that we are in there with the bulldozers and laying concrete.

Dr WOODRUFF - Just the helicopters.

CHAIR - Order, Dr Woodruff. How many more times do I have to ask you not to interject after you have spent more than two minutes asking a question?

Mr GUTWEIN - How can we find a common ground between us. What I have read out are the EOIs that are currently operating, but you would make it sound like the bulldozers are in TWWHA, that we are building incessantly. We are not. These are sensible ecotourism projects that add to the patchwork we offer. To listen to you one would think that it is development gone mad. It is not. These are very sensible proposals.

Dr WOODRUFF - Premier, you mentioned before you made some comments about us wanting to bulldoze the wilderness. I just want to make it clear -

CHAIR - Dr Woodruff, there is a minute to go. If you want an answer to the question that you are going to ask, I'd get to it quickly.

Dr WOODRUFF - The question is about protecting values. Ian Johnstone's for Maria Island involves the rebuilding of Atkins House as an overnight accommodation base for the exclusive use of Maria Island Walk. Why do you believe it's appropriate for a commercial business to have exclusive possession of a World Heritage Listed building at Darlington Point?

Mr GUTWEIN - The start of your question highlights where your mindset is on this.

I didn't accuse you of bulldozing the wilderness. I made the point that that's what you do in terms of the EOI process. You make it sound like that's what we're doing when nothing could be further from the truth. I even provided you with an example that I think it doesn't. EOI, successful projects, none of which could be considered in the context that you would provide for the way that you believe we treat the wilderness.

I don't have any information that I can provide.

Dr WOODRUFF - There's a secret process that speaks volumes.