Premier Hodgman (also Minister for Tourism and Minister for Parks) has proudly announced (29 August 2018) the approval of three more new tourism operations in Tasmanian national parks and reserves:
- Rotor-Lift Aviation has been granted a trial licence for recreation and tourism activities on the island, involving scenic helicopter flights from Cambridge to the island.
- Tasmanian E-Bike Adventures will provide guided bike tours on electronic bikes to ride and explore Maria Island National Park.
- Moulting Lagoon Eco Tours will commence ‘nature-based boat tours’ at Moulting Lagoon on the Freycinet coast using an electric powered boat.
All are outcomes of the state government’s Expressions of Interest process and all have, apparently, been the subject of a Reserve Activity Assessment (RAA). With one exception (see below) there was no public notification of the proposals prior to the Premier’s announcement, the RAAs have not been made public (nor has any opportunity been provided for public input or scrutiny) and the operating conditions are commercial-in-confidence.
All three proposals are likely to have significant impacts on natural and cultural values, including the experience of other visitors, so the public deserves to know how these were assessed!
Only the Tasman Island proposal has been subject to any public notification, because it required a change to the management plan, but no details were provided (see the TNPA’s submission).
The Tasmanian Planning Commission’s Review of the Tasman National Park Draft Management Plan 2016 found that “The majority of representations did not support allowing commercial helicopter access to Tasman Island, or the rezoning for recreational and tourism purposes, with a number contending that any increase in helicopter visitation or commercial development would be detrimental to the environmental, cultural heritage and social values of the Island or Park”.
The Premier needs to explain the justification for ignoring the majority of representations on the change to the Tasman National Park management plan and end the secrecy surrounding RAAs generally. RAAs are now the key assessment process for developments on reserved land – they should be open and transparent to the public, just like a council’s assessment of a development application.