EDO Tasmania is representing The Wilderness Society (TWS) in proceedings challenging the decision that the proposed Halls Island/Lake Malbena helicopter-accessed visitor accommodation does not require approval under the EPBC Act. The case will examine how decisions are made about development in Tasmania’s wild places.
Update: The application was heard by the Federal Court on 26 March 2019. The parties will be invited to make further submissions after the Full Court of the Federal Court hands down its decision in a separate case that raises related legal issues.
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 pad on the shore of Lake Malbena opposite Halls Island; and
- helicopter flights between Derwent Bridge and Lake Malbena to provide visitor access and maintenance services.
Stage 2 is yet to be advertised, but is expected to involve construction of walking facilities to nearby natural and cultural features. For full details of the proposal, as it was referred to the Minister, click here.
The decision being challenged
The proposal was referred to the Federal Minister under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), on the basis of potential impacts on World Heritage values, National heritage values, and listed threatened species.
The referral generated intense public interest, with over 900 public submissions opposing the development, particularly the helicopter access, on the basis that it would significantly detract from the wilderness values of the area. Despite the concerns raised by scientists, conservationists, recreational fishers and the National Parks and Wildlife Advisory Council, the Minister’s delegate determined that the project was not a controlled action and did not require any further assessment or approval under the EPBC Act.
No conditions were attached to the decision.
Why is the case important?
Issues to be explored in this case include:
- how ‘controlled action’ decisions are supposed to be made under the EPBC Act;
- whether reliance can be placed on Reserve Activity Assessments undertaken by PWS to avoid further assessment;
- whether comprehensive assessment should be required where there is a genuine risk of impacts on matters of national environmental significance;
- when the Minister should specify the manner in which a proposal is to be carried out so that it will not significantly impact on wilderness and other protected values; and
- what obligation the Minister has to consider the impacts of later stages of a proposal in determining whether it will have a significant impact on matters of national environmental significance.
The case will explore critical issues about the operation of national environmental laws, the level of scrutiny expected for developments in our wild places, and the responsibilities of the Federal Minister in assessing proposals that put internationally-recognised wilderness values at risk.
EDO Tasmania is also representing TWS, the Tasmanian National Parks Association and two others in Wild Drake’s appeal against the Central Highland Council’s refusal of a planning permit for the development. For more information about that appeal, click here.
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Media about this case
- Lake Malbena Federal Court Case Opened on Tuesday (Matt Maloney, 26 March 2019, Advocate)
- Federal Court Hearing Opens on Wilderness Society’s Challenge to Lake Malbena Plan (Emily Barker, 26 March 2019, The Mercury)
- Unwilling Activists (Brett Smith, FlyStream, 4 December 2018)
- Speech to Keeping Tassie Wild public meeting (Greg French, 27 November 2018)
- Luxury camping plans for remote sacred site outrages Aboriginal groups (Phoebe Hosier, 27 November 2018, ABC News)
- Government waved through development in World Heritage area despite objections from its own advisers (Nicole Hashan, 26 November 2018, Sydney Morning Herald)
- Libs Plans for Helipad at Lake Malbena Will Affect Jobs (Graeme Wells, 20 November 2018, Tasmanian Times)
- Choppers fly past a barrage of flak for Lake Malbena tourism proposal (Emily Barker, 19 November 2018, The Mercury)
- Muddy Ruling Masks Missteps (Gogarty, McCormack, Kirkpatrick, Talking Point, 17 November 2018, The Mercury)
- The new battle for Tasmania (Kate Legge, 17 November 2018, The Australian)
- Commercial tourism in Tasmania’s wilderness threatens the attraction it exploits (Gogarty et al, Nature Ecology & Evolution)
- Proposed Lake Malbena tourism development strains World Heritage status and friendships in Tasmania (Felicity Ogilvie, 16 November 2018, ABC News)
- Don’t let chopper flights blot angling and wilderness gem (Greg French, Talking Point, 8 November 2018, The Mercury)
- Let’s Not Go Down the Path to Bitter Division (Luke Martin, Talking Point, 8 November 2018, The Mercury)
- The Possibilities of Solitude (Bert Spinks, 29 October 2018)
- Heritage Isle in Tasmania Now a Sanctuary for the Rich (Matt Denholm, 26 October 2018, The Australian)
- Morrison Govt Greenlights Luxury Camp in Tasmanian Wilderness Despite Expert Advice (Adam Morton, 17 October 2018, The Guardian)
- Green Light for Tasmanian Wilderness Tourism Development Defied Expert Advice (Gogarty, FitzGerald, McCormack, 16 October 2018, The Conversation)