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World Heritage Area - Halls Island - Leases Resigned


Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 4 March 2021

Tags: Lake Malbena, Privatisation, Parks EOIs

Ms O'CONNOR question to MINISTER FOR PARKS, Mr JAENSCH

Minister, on 19 January 2018, just before the last state election, your predecessors secretly signed off on the leases over Reg Hall's Hut and over the entirety of Halls Island at Lake Malbena. Fishers, walkers and lovers of Tasmania's wilderness were enraged to discover, ultimately through a right to information process, that your Government had effectively given away an island inside the World Heritage Area for $80 per week. The leases were due for renewal on 19 January this year. Minister, can you confirm they have been re-signed? Can you tell Tasmanians whether the going rate under your Government for a private developer to be granted an island in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) is still $80 per week?

 

ANSWER

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her question.

I remind her, and the House, that tourism development in our natural areas not only supports the increasingly valuable nature-based tourism economy in our state but also stimulates jobs in regional economies. I believe bringing people into our wild areas, under appropriate regulation, is also a great way of educating people about the values those areas were established to protect.

I remind the House, and the member, that the Halls Island/Lake Malbena proposal remains subject to all relevant state government and Australian Government planning and approval processes. It is a proposal from a proponent, not the Government. The Government is the assessor of that proposal, where it intersects with state legislation and regulations. That proposal still has a way to go to prove it is able to deliver what it is intending to do in a way consistent with values of the area it is contained in and that it meets requirements under a reserve activity assessment (RAA) and relevant Commonwealth legislation as well.

Now I go to the matter of giving away land in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA). Two leases in relation to Halls Island have been issued. A commercial lease of Halls Island was granted in January 2018. The lease grants Wild Drake Pty Ltd access to the island for the purpose of constructing and operating a standing camp and other improved uses. When and if they meet the requirements of all relevant legislation, they cannot proceed to develop those facilities until they have an appropriate business licence and have passed the RAA.

There is a separate private domestic lease for the use of the historic hut on the island, which Ms O'Connor referred to as well, similar to the licence held originally by Reg Hall, since 1957.

Madam Speaker, the other issue we raised included the lease rental charge. I am advised that the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service commissioned an independent valuation to determine the lease rental for Halls Island. The appropriate process was followed to determine a fair and reasonable return to the state, increasing over time. We use the same process for all such leases in reserve areas. It is very important we do not treat that as real estate - it is not a shopfront in the middle of Hobart, it is a World Heritage Area. We rely on the valuer to put a rent value on it and we take the independent valuer's advice. The most important process of assessment and valuation is the determination under the RAA and other processes of what this proposal or development would need to satisfy to have permission to operate there.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker, under standing order 45, relevance. We kept the question short so the minister might be given an opportunity to actually answer it. The question related to whether the leases had been re-signed and for what rental cost.

Madam SPEAKER - I ask the minister to be relevant.

Mr JAENSCH - A number of matters were raised in the question, Madam Speaker.

The rental for the Halls Island lease is presently $1050.63 per annum, which will increase to $4000 per annum on practical completion of the development should it be permitted to proceed. It will be varied annually at the rate of 2.5 per cent and will be subject to review every five years.

Where I was going before with this is that to me, as the minister responsible for our reserve estate, it is far more important we have developments that are able to operate within the required conditions of the permits that may be issued, which may end up costing the proponent far more to satisfy and comply with than we charge them in rent. I believe Ms O'Connor is implying that if we charged more, it would be okay.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker. There are thousands of people - fishers, walkers and other lovers of the wilderness - who want an answer to this question: have the lease been re-signed by the minister?

Madam SPEAKER - Okay, thank you. Minister, that is the question. I ask you to be brief.

Mr JAENSCH - Thank you, Madam Speaker.

I think the member is updating her question as we go. My point is that it appears in this question of how much the lease is charged for, that somehow if we charged more, it would be okay. I cannot quite understand what point of principle Ms O'Connor is most concerned about.

I am advised the proponent has asked for an extension of time to meet the time frames of the conditions precedent within the lease and my department is considering that request.

Ms O'Connor - Have they been re-signed?

Madam SPEAKER - Thank you.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker. He did not answer the question. You cannot get up to the lectern and not answer a question like that.

Madam SPEAKER - I understand your frustration, Ms O'Connor, but you know the practices of this House - where we indulge very long questions, the minister has the right to answer it in the manner he sees fit.

Ms O'Connor - It was a very short question, with respect, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER - I do understand that, but unfortunately, that is it.