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Wilderness Protection Processes

Vica Bayley MP

Vica Bayley MP  -  Tuesday, 14 November 2023

Tags: Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, Lake Malbena

Mr BAYLEY (Clark) - Deputy Speaker, I rise tonight to talk about our fabulous wild places and their protection in lutruwita/Tasmania. We are truly blessed with some of the most incredible landscapes and incredible species that are occupying them and the incredible heritage values that go with that.

Over 50 per cent of the state is in some kind of reserve. The Tasmanian reserve network covers 50 per cent of Tasmania. Within that are all sorts of values. We have the tallest trees, we have some incredibly diverse plant species like the deciduous beech, we have incredible animal species like the Tassie devil, the quoll, the skate, the parrot. There are so many species that are unique and endemic to us here in Tasmania.

These landscapes protect an irreplaceable heritage of our first people, the Palawa people, 40 000 years of existence on this landscape before we, as non-Aboriginal people, got here. The legacy that those old people have left include rock art, incredible living places and cultural landscape that is unparalleled.

I spoke some weeks ago about the Retrospective Statement of Outstanding Universal Value recently adopted by the World Heritage committee, which confirmed and articulated the incredible values of the World Heritage Area. That was endorsed by the World Heritage Committee. It speaks to what an incredible place we have.

There are a number of threats to those wild places, starting with climate change and the industrial and recreational spheres. I am not going to go into the details of that. We have debated that extensively in the House. I am not going to go into specific industries but I did want to look at some higher-level protections or processes that we in this place are responsible for protecting.

The first one I wanted to point out is the reserve status. While I talk about 50 per cent of the state being protected in some kind of reserve status, it must be recognised that includes the future potential production forests, the so-called wood bank of the Liberal Government. These are the forests that help get us to net zero. They are not properly protected. Even the reserves that are protected under the Nature Conservation Act - regional reserves conservation areas and the like - still provide for destructive activities that are highly problematic when it comes to the protection of the values.

Special species logging, mining and four-wheel driving are still allowed in those areas. It is of deep concern. That is why the conservation movement is always aspiring for the highest level of protection, national park and above, and aspiring for and advocating for protection of World Heritage of incredible areas like takayna/Tarkine and other incredible areas.

When it comes to other processes, I want to talk about assessment monitoring and decisions. We have been waiting for proper assessment processes of developments in our parks and reserves. The Government long ago promised a reform of the reserve activities assessment, to make it a statutory process, to make sure that there were third party appeal rights within that process. It has consistently delayed doing that, despite the fact that some developments continue to be assessed against the old process. Lake Malbena is one of those.

It was assessed and approved without any community consultation. Recently some camps at Freycinet were put through the RAA process with no community consultation, largely based on the fact that they are a legacy lease from a long time ago, even though those camps spent more years packed up and not established on site than they did erected on that site. Under changes that are coming to LUPA, tourism developments in parks and reserves are no longer a discretionary activity, they are permitted activities. This means that councils do not and will not have a say on the approval of those developments.

I spoke earlier today about the Aboriginal Heritage Act, how the Government has, for two-and-a-half years, acknowledged that act is woefully out of date and that it does not provide effective mechanisms of protection. Yet we consistently see delay and obfuscation and excuse as to why that is not being protected. It does lead to bad outcomes when it comes to protection of Aboriginal heritage values. We have seen large developments proceed against the ineffective act.

More recently there is a strategy being employed to look at four-wheel driving on the west coast. It seems that the Aboriginal cultural heritage will be overlooked and underassessed when it comes to that development. Monitoring is an important part of environmental management and how landscapes are recovering. The monitoring that comes after a bushfire or after a planned burn are incredibly important; things like wakes from commercial tourism boats that go up the Gordon River, and the erosion on sensitive banks of the Gordon. These are programs that we understand are now unable to be funded and officers are no longer able to get into the field to undertake that kind of activity.

This is a travesty when it comes to the State of the Environment report. This report has consistently missed its five-year review deadlines. It is over 10 years since the State of the Environment report was updated. We have only recently had a commitment to deliver a new one by the middle of this year.

Decisions and investment in parks. Toilets are overflowing at Lake Rhona, walking tracks are getting almost no investment annually, yet we are having investment in developments like the visitor shelter at Cradle Mountain. We are deeply concerned about the management of our parks and reserves and those important values.