The proposed camp sits inside the Walls of Jerusalem National Park. (Supplied: Tasmanian National Parks Association)
Rising tensions over the State Government’s plans to rezone areas of Tasmania’s Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) for private commercial developments have boiled over on the floor of Parliament.
In a fiery exchange during Question Time, Greens Leader Cassy O’Connor repeatedly asked Premier Will Hodgman to address concerns from “livid” anglers over a controversial plan to re-classify an area of the TWWHA at remote Lake Malbena in the Central Highlands.
Waving a leaked copy of a government assessment of a development billed as a luxury standing camp and helipad for Halls Island in Lake Malbena, Ms O’Connor branded Mr Hodgman “the wholly conflicted Minister for Parks and Tourism,” and accused him of keeping Tasmanians “in the dark”.
“As you know Premier, RAAs [Reserve Activity Assessments] are not meant to be made public. This document was never meant to see the light of day,” Ms O’Connor said.
“Over the last fortnight Premier, angry anglers have packed public meetings across the state about your EOI process.”
“What do you have to say to furious anglers who attended these meetings who rightly believe they’ve been shut out and their enjoyment of Tasmania’s wilderness is under threat from a corrupted process?”
Amid calls of “corruption” and “corrupted process” from the Greens, Mr Hodgman defended the Government’s 2016 updated management plan for the TWHHA, as a “bold, innovative” policy being done “sensitively”.
He said it provided “an ability for proponents to have their proposals assessed … to ensure that they are able to do so, preserving their commercial rights.”
“This is a foreign concept I know to all Greens and probably most Labor members, that in the private sector and in commercial operations it’s important that proponents are able to have their matters considered through an EOI process that’s assessed through the office of the Co-ordinator General,” Mr Hodgman told Parliament.
The existing 1950s hut on Halls Island, photographed by Kathy Van Dulleman. (Supplied: Kathy Van Dulleman)
At the heart of the Parliament debate on Tuesday morning was the Lake Malbena proposal — a pitch from proponents Daniel and Simone Hackett of company RiverFly1864, that would sit inside the Walls of Jerusalem National Park and involve flying paying tourists into the lakeside camp via helicopter.
But it has come against a backdrop of a growing stoush between the conservation movement and supporters of the Government’s approach in the TWHHA, which has also included a flagged re-zoning within the popular Frenchman’s Cap wilderness area, and support for a series of private commercial huts to be built along the remote South Coast Track.
Lawyers from the Environment Defenders Office (EDO) have in recent weeks held public meetings around the state about the issue, and Ms O’Connor used Parliament on Tuesday to state there were “30 development proposals including 20 proposals involving permanent huts, lodges and permanent standing camps as well as frequent helicopter flights set for approval in the TWHHA”.
“All of these were prohibited under the previous TWHHA Management Plan,” she said.
A map of the proposed camp at Halls Island, showing camp footprint (pink), existing 1950s hut (aqua), walking path (green) and approximate helipad location, with vegetation protection areas (blue). (Supplied: Dept Environment and Energy)
Bob Brown’s chopper plan ride targeted
The heated Question Time exchange also included the Greens branding Mr Hodgman “elitist” and an angry Mr Hodgman shouting that the Greens were the “privileged … who would lock up” the TWHHA, before then taking aim at party icon, Bob Brown.
Under sustained questioning from Ms O’Connor, Mr Hodgman challenged the Greens leader to respond to reports of Mr Brown seeking a helicopter flight over the Tarkine on the state’s west coast.
“If the member who asked the question is so concerned about people flying in and out to this area via helicopter… what does she say to the fact that earlier this month Bob Brown, no less, sought approval for a helicopter ride across the Tarkine to showcase the coast to an international visitor?” Mr Hodgman said.
“So it’s OK for Bob Brown to take an international mate and fly across the Tarkine and then complain about anyone else who might like to do so?
“What do you say to Bob Brown degrading the environmental values … can you please explain? This is classic Greens hypocrisy.”
The allegation prompted another furious exchange, with Ms O’Connor labelling it “pathetic”.
The Tarkine, which conservationists want to protect from forestry and mining, is not part of the TWHHA.