There was some good news regarding the proposed helicopter-accessed tourism development at Lake Malbena from the Commonwealth Environment Minister Sussan Ley on 17 September 2020. Her press release states “I have determined that the likely impacts to the unique values of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) warrant a formal assessment,” Minister Ley said. “Assessment will commence immediately and will involve further public consultation before a decision is made whether or not to approve the proposal”.
In August 2018 it was determined that the proposal was ‘not a controlled action’ under the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act. This was challenged by The Wilderness Society and the final outcome has just been announced. The proposal is now considered a ‘controlled action’, triggering a more thorough assessment of its environmental impacts at a Federal level and a further opportunity for public comment.
We have long argued the proposed project at Lake Malbena would have an unacceptable impact on the wilderness values of the TWWHA and so needed to be assessed at a Federal level under the EPBC Act, because it is this Commonwealth legislation which implements our international obligations under the World Heritage Convention. This should now occur.
The EPBC Act provides several alternative assessment processes. Minister Ley assessed has stated the Malbena proposal will be assessed ‘on preliminary documentation’. We consider it merits assessment by the more rigorous ‘Public Environment Report’, but all is not lost. The ‘assessment on preliminary documentation’ may require the proponent to provide additional information and does provide opportunity for public comment on the information provided.
Also remember that the Lake Malbena proposal requires approval from both federal and state governments before it can proceed. The approvals required under Tasmanian legislation are currently subject to challenge in the Supreme Court.