EDO Tasmania is representing The Wilderness Society (TWS), the Tasmanian National Parks Association, and two individuals in the developer’s appeal against the Central Highlands Council’s decision to refuse a planning permit for the proposed Halls Island/Lake Malbena helicopter-accessed tourism development. The case will examine the merits of the proposal and how planning decisions should be made for Tasmania’s wild places.
On 8-9 August, the Resource Management and Planning Appeals Tribunal heard the final two days of the Lake Malbena appeal. The hearing was 7 days in total, resuming from a week of hearing 24-28 June 2019.
The Tribunal has reserved its decision. We expect a decision mid-September.
Halls Island, on Lake Malbena, is within the Walls of Jerusalem National Park, which forms part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) and the Tasmanian Wilderness National Heritage place. The area, known for its wild rivers, remoteness, biodiversity, scenic beauty and cultural values, is popular with bushwalkers and anglers.
Stage 1 of the tourism venture proposed by Wild Drake Pty Ltd involves:
- an accommodation complex comprising three accommodation buildings, central kitchen / communal hut, and associated toilet facilities;
- board-walking on Halls Island;
- a helicopter landing site on the shore of Lake Malbena opposite Halls Island; and
- up to 240 one-way helicopter flights between Derwent Bridge and Lake Malbena to provide visitor access with additional flights for maintenance and construction.
Stage 2 is yet to be advertised, but is expected to involve construction of walking facilities to nearby natural and cultural features. Details of the development application submitted to Council can be found by clicking here.
The decision being challenged
The development application was lodged with the Central Highlands Council in October 2018. The Council invited public comment on the proposal between 19 January and 15 February 2019.
The development application generated intense public interest, with over 1300 public representations being made to Council opposing the development. The representations raised concerns about how the proposed development, and particularly the helicopter access, would detract from the outstanding wilderness values of the area.
On 26 February 2019, the Council decided to refuse a permit for the development. Wild Drake Pty Ltd is appealing that decision to the Resource Management and Planning Appeal Tribunal.
Our clients have joined the appeal with the object of having Council’s refusal of a permit upheld by the Tribunal.
From 24 – 28 June 2019, the Resource Management and Planning Appeals Tribunal part-heard the appeal made by Wild Drake Pty Ltd against the Central Highland Council’s decision to refuse a permit for its tourism development proposed on Halls Island in Lake Malbena, within Tasmania’s Wilderness World Heritage Area.
On 8-9 August, the Resource Management and Planning Appeals Tribunal heard the final two days of the Lake Malbena appeal.
Together with the Central Highlands Council, our clients called experts in planning, wilderness impact assessment, noise, ecology and aviation safety to give evidence to the Tribunal about the proposed development.
The hearing concluded with concurrent evidence from two experts on risks to the threatened Wedge-tailed Eagle from helicopter access and submissions from each parties’ legal representatives.
Juliet Forsyth SC made closing submissions for joined parties Tasmanian National Parks Association, the Wilderness Society (Tas) and two individuals, with EDO Tasmania’s lawyers Nicole Sommer and Claire Bookless.
In closing, Ms Forsyth addressed the legal issues raised by the Attorney-General and Appellant who argued that the Tribunal does not have jurisdiction to consider impacts to wilderness, and addressed the substantial evidence called in the case, arguing that the proposal should be refused because it does not comply with the planning scheme.
Why is the case important?
Issues to be explored in this appeal include whether the proposed tourism development:
- is in accordance with the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area Management Plan 2016, and in particular, whether the accommodation buildings are “huts” or a “standing camp”;
- is complementary to the existing use of the National Park and adjacent conservation area;
- is consistent with the statutory objectives for National Parks and conservation areas, and in particular, whether it will “preserve the natural, primitive and remote character” of the wilderness area;
- will have an unreasonable impact on the amenity of the surrounding area through helicopter movements and associated noise;
- will avoid, mitigate or have the least impact on the area’s natural values.
The appeal will also determine whether planning authorities can rely on the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service’s Reserve Activity Assessment for the purposes of deciding whether or not to grant a development permit for an activity on reserved land.
EDO Tasmania is also representing TWS in a separate application to the Federal Court challenging the Federal Government’s decision that the proposed Halls Island development does not require a detailed assessment and approval under the EPBC Act. For more information about that case, click here.
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