Wild Drake Pty Ltd is still attempting to obtain federal government approval to construct its proposed helicopter-accessed lodge on Halls Island within the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. The proposal has already been refused by local government and no applications for state-level approval are current. (You can read the background to this proposal here.)
Wild Drake has recently made a call for the public to comment on its proposal, with responses required by 19 October. This took most people, including TNPA, by surprise.
We knew that this proposal is being assessed according to the “assessment on preliminary documentation” process laid down by the (federal) Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act).
What we had not realised is that this process requires the proponent (Wild Drake Pty Ltd) to invite anyone to provide “comments in writing relating to the information [published by the proponent] or the action [the proposed development]”. The proponent is then required to give the federal environment agency a document including a “summary of the comments received and how those comments have been addressed”. The EPBC Act requires that this is published as part of the process.
This is quite different from the more familiar public comment processes which are undertaken and analysed by the government agency (an independent, third party) assessing a proposal.
Many opponents of the proposal are outraged by the concept of the proponent conducting public consultation but that is the process laid down by the EPBC Act.
This is a test case on the right to develop wilderness. We’ve already had public comment on the original development application to Central Highlands Council in 2019 and two rounds of comment on previous attempts to gain EPBC Act approval – all demonstrated overwhelming opposition! It’s obvious that this proposal has not got, and is never likely to receive, a social licence.
It’s not obvious that anything additional will be learned from a further round of consultation but we need to ensure that the message does not change – hence, opponents of the Lake Malbena heli-tourism proposal need to demonstrate their concern one more time!
Comments do not need to be lengthy but original comments generally have more impact than pro-forma responses so we encourage everyone concerned by this proposal to visit HERE and make a personal submission. Please send a copy of your comment to us at firstname.lastname@example.org so that we too are aware of your concerns.
The Wilderness Society has prepared a website for making pro-forma comments HERE. You can use this portal to comment if you wish or to provide points to use in your personal submission direct to Wild Drake.
Comments close at 5pm on 19 October.
Postscript: Read our submission HERE.