Much of Tasmania’s diverse natural assets, wilderness and stunning scenery is protected by a reserve system offering a range of reserve categories – national parks, State reserves, nature reserves, conservation areas, regional reserves, game reserves and nature recreation areas. Each reserve type offers different levels of protection.
Forest reserves, formerly managed by Forestry Tasmania, are now managed by the Parks and Wildlife Service as Conservation Areas or Regional Reserves.
Reserved lands are managed under two main pieces of legislation:
- Nature Conservation Act 2002 – this Act sets out categories for reserved lands and management objectives for each reserve class. The Act also provides for conservation of private land through conservation covenants and declaration of private nature reserves.
- National Parks and Reserves Management Act 2002 – this Act provides for management plans to be developed for reserve land and provides for commercial activities to be regulated by licences. The National Parks and Reserved Land Regulations 2009 also sets out specific offences relating to activities in reserve areas, such as carrying firearms, lighting fires or taking wildlife.
Several areas are managed under site-specific legislation (e.g. Wellington Park Act 1993) and are subject to different rules. Many local councils and government agencies also manage reserved public land under the Crown Lands Act 1976 and local by-laws.
National parks and reserves are public assets that the community has an interest in maintaining. The laws provide a number of opportunities to have your say about how these areas are managed:
- Propose that an area be declared as a national park, national heritage area or a reserve, or included in an existing national park or reserve
- Make a submission about a draft management plan
- Make a representation about a proposed activity in a national park or reserve
- Request that significant developments be assessed by the Commonwealth Environment Minister (as well as under State laws)
- Report unlawful activities occurring in national parks and reserves (such as unlawful clearing or hunting)
Scroll down for more information about these opportunities.
Responding to government proposals
Declaration of national parks and reserves
On the advice of the government, the Tasmanian Governor may:
- declare Crown land to be reserved in any of the reserve classes
- change the reserve classification of Crown land (for example, to upgrade from Conservation Area to National Park)
- declare private land to be reserved as a private sanctuary or private nature reserve (with the consent of the landowner)
There is no formal process set out for public consultation in relation to declaring or amending national parks and reserves. Public comment may be invited and the Commission may be directed to assess a proposal, but there is no requirement for this to happen
⊗ If the land is in a permanent timber production zone or in future potential production forest, both Houses of Parliament must agree to any reserve declaration before it can be made.
⊗ Land cannot be declared to be a national park, State reserve, nature reserve or historic site unless both Houses of Parliament agree to the declaration.
⊗ Parliamentary approval from both houses is required before a reserve declaration can be revoked for all or part of an area.
Where parliamentary approval is required, a parliamentary Committee may be established and call for public comments on the proposal. Keep an eye on the Public Notices section for any information about Committee inquiries.
It is a good idea to lobby the Minister and all members of parliament to gain their support for a proposal to declare or expand a reserve, or their opposition to a proposal to remove an area from a reserve. Click here for tips on lobbying.
If you would like private land to be protected, you can explore a number of options:
- Contact the Tasmanian Land Conservancy to see if they are interested in purchasing the land, or assisting you to enter into conservation arrangements
- Contact Landcare Tasmania to see what support they can offer for your land management efforts
- Apply to join the government’s Private Land Conservation Program – this may include entering a conservation covenant, a management agreement or recognising your property as a Land for Wildlife site
- Place a restrictive covenant on your property. This will be recorded on the title and bind future owners, but can be removed with the consent of the Land Titles Office
- Request that the Governor declare the land to be a private sanctuary or private nature reserve
Each of these options provide different restrictions and different levels of financial and technical support to manage private land. Some of these options will also require you to provide an assessment of the values of your property – contact the relevant programme to discuss what information you will need to provide to get them interested in helping to protect your land.
Click here for an overview of some of the pros and cons of various private land conservation options.
Nominate a National Heritage Place
Places with natural or cultural heritage values of national significance may be declared to be National Heritage Places under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Any person may nominate a place that they think has significant heritage values. Where the values of the place are in imminent danger, the Minister may also declare an emergency listing for the place – these listings expire after 12 months, unless renewed.
Click here to request a nomination kit.
Nominations are invited annually and a selection of places nominated will be referred to the Australian Heritage Council for assessment. The Council will prepare a priority assessment list for approval by the Minister, and publish the approved list on its website.
Click here to see the guidelines for assessing proposed National Heritage places.
The Council must invite comments from the public, landowners and occupiers on whether a nominated place should be included in the National Heritage List. Following public consultation and review of any relevant reports, the Council will make a recommendation to the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment. The final decision about whether to declare a National Heritage place rests with the Minister.
The Tarkine National Coalition nominated an area of north-west Tasmania known as “the Tarkine” as a National Heritage place in 2009. The area was granted an emergency heritage listing while an assessment into its values took place, however the emergency listing lapsed in 2010.
Finally, in 2013, the Australian Heritage Council released its report, finding that the natural and cultural values of the Tarkine made it an area of outstanding national heritage significance. The Council recommended that over 430,000ha be declared a National Heritage place. The Council’s final assessment report to the Minister is available here.
However, the Environment Minister did not adopt this advice. He noted the potential economic implications of such a large listing and instead included only a narrow coastal strip of land demonstrating significant Aboriginal heritage values. This are is known as the Western Tasmania Aboriginal Cultural Landscape.
While the area ultimately listed is far smaller than the original nomination, the existence of the National Heritage listing allowed the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre to secure an interim injunction to prevent off-road vehicle activity that may damage the heritage values the listing is designed to protect (see more about the off-road vehicles case below)
Under the National Parks and Reserves Management Act 2002, the Director of Parks and Wildlife may prepare a management plan for any reserve. Management plans are to be consistent with the relevant management objectives set out in the Nature Conservation Act 2002. You can see a full list of existing management plans here.
Management plans are critical documents governing what activities can (and cannot) occur in a national park or reserve, responsibilities for management activities and protection of cultural heritage sites. It is important to get involved in the development of management plans to make sure that the plans set appropriate rules to protect the natural and cultural values within the park or reserve.
Draft management plans, or proposed amendments to management plans, must be released for public comment for at least 30 days. Notice that the draft is available for comment will be published in the newspaper and on the Parks and Wildlife website.
⊗ The management plan must be made available for inspection (generally, on the Parks and Wildlife website, displayed at the Tasmanian Planning Commission or available for purchase). DPIPWE may also have some hard copies that they are willing to send out – there is no harm in asking, so contact the officer listed on the website and ask nicely!
Click here for tips on preparing a submission. You can read EDO Tasmania’s submissions regarding the draft TWWHA Management Plan 2014 and amendments to the Wellington Park Management Plan 2013.
⊗ Management plans should be reviewed regularly. In some cases, the plans itself includes a clause requiring the plan to be reviewed after 5 – 10 years. If you believe that a management plan should be reviewed, you can lobby the Director to initiate a review. Click here for tips on lobbying.
Following the end of the public comment period, the management authority (PWS, Wellington Park Management Trust) will prepare a report to the Tasmanian Planning Commission summarising all issues raised in the submissions and commenting on whether any further amendments to the draft should be made to address the issues raised.
The Planning Commission may hold a public hearing and invite people who made submissions to appear. If you think a hearing should be held, you should write and urge the Commission to call a hearing, setting out the reasons why you think a hearing would assist the Commission to fulfil its assessment role. Click here for a sample letter.
The Commission then reports to the Minister (or directs the managing authority to make significant changes to the draft management plan). The Minister makes the final recommendation before presenting the management plan / amendments to the management plan to the Governor for declaration.
⊗ In practice, the Governor will endorse the Minister’s recommendations and is unlikely to refuse to declare a draft management plan unless there has been a clear breach of the law. For tips on lobbying the Minister before she or he makes a recommendation, click here.
In August 2014, the Wellington Park Management Trust advertised a draft amendment to the Wellington Park Management Plan 2013 which would extend the area of the Pinnacle zone in which commercial development could occur. More than 400 individuals and groups made representations to the Trust in relation to the proposal, mostly opposing the change.
The Tasmanian Planning Commission resolved to hold a public hearing to review the representations and the Trust’s response.
Residents Opposed to the Cable Car (ROCC), Respect the Mountain, the Mt Wellington Cable Car Company and a range of interested individuals gave evidence at the hearing.
The Commission found that many of the Trust’s responses to issues raised in representations were inadequate and the Trust had failed to comply with the Wellington Park Act 1993. Read more at www.iplan.tas.gov.au
Responding to applications
Developments in national parks and reserves require approval from the State government – this includes licences and leases for activities and consent to proceed with development applications under relevant planning legislation.
Under the Tasmanian Reserve Management Code of Practice 2003, Reserve Activity Assessments will generally be undertaken before any approval is granted.
Reserve Activity Assessments are classified into four classes of assessment depending on the activity and the level of risk involved – assessments range from desktop assessments (Level 1) to formal impact procedures requiring preparation of a DPEMP addressing project-specific guidelines (Level 4). Click here for an overview of the Reserve Activity Assessment process and guide for classifying developments.
⊗ Public comments will only be invited in respect of developments in the Level 4 assessment category.
⊗ The Reserve Activity Assessment overview provides guidance only – the decision about what level of assessment is required is determined on a case by case basis by a Regional or General Manager of Parks and Wildlife. If you think a proposal should be assessed as a Level 4 activity, write to the Regional Manager setting out the reasons why you think it meets the criteria for a Level 4.
In general, development in national parks is subject to the standard assessment process (see “Planning and Development“) and must be consistent with the relevant planning scheme. However, for most planning schemes in Tasmania, development in a national park will be permitted (that is, not require public input) provided the development has received a positive Reserve Activity Assessment.
⊗ The Office of the Coordinator General is responsible for managing the government’s new “Expressions of Interest” project for tourism developments in national parks and reserves. Click here to see the list of projects currently being progressed. The Premier has assured the public that these developments will be assessed “under the normal statutory processes.”
Click here to read an article assessing whether planning approval is required for development in national parks.
Developments affecting national issues
If a development in a national park or reserve will impact on a matter of national environmental significance under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (such as a World Heritage Area or National Heritage place, listed threatened species or a Ramsar wetland), the proposal must also be assessed by the Commonwealth Environment Minister. This may include activities occurring outside a national park or reserve that will impact on values inside the reserve area.
If you believe that a proposal should be assessed by the Commonwealth Minister, you can contact the Department and ask that the proposal be “called in”. Click here for a sample letter requesting that the Minister use the ‘call in’ powers.
If Commonwealth approval is required, additional opportunities for public comment may exist. See “Planning and Development” for more information about how to have your say in Commonwealth assessments.
Monitoring and enforcement
Reporting illegal activity
If you have evidence that the National Parks and Reserves Management Regulations 2009 are being breached (for example, if vegetation or stones are being taken from a reserve or tours are operating without a licence), you should contact the nearest Parks and Wildlife ranger station or a police officer in the area to report your concerns.
If you believe that the unlawful activity will impact on a matter of national environmental significance, including the World Heritage values of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, you should also report your concerns to the compliance branch within the Commonwealth Department of Environment and ask them to investigate.
Click here for tips on how to report illegal activity.
Challenging a management plan
There is no express right to appeal against a decision to declare a management plan. However, an interested person may be able to apply to the Supreme Court for a declaration that a management plan is invalid because it does not satisfy the reserve management objectives. This is a complex legal argument and you should seek legal advice before considering any action.
In 2000, the Tasmanian Conservation Trust applied for a declaration that the Lake Johnston Nature Reserve management plan was invalid because it promoted tourism (not one of the management objectives for a nature reserve) and would facilitate an increase in visitors that would harm the values of the reserve. The court considered the relevant question to be:
“whether any of the actions that the plan proposes be undertaken is an action that will not achieve one or more of the management objectives.”
In that case, the Court decided that allowing limited guided tours was consistent with the objectives relating to education, therefore the plan was not invalid. You can read the decision here.
A person aggrieved may also be able to apply for judicial review of a decision of the Director or the Planning Commission to recommend that a management plan be declared. See “Challenging Decisions” for more information about judicial review.
Challenging development proposals
Where a development in a national park or reserve is discretionary under the relevant planning scheme, any person who made a representation may appeal to the Resource Management and Planning Appeal Tribunal against a decision to approve the development. See “Planning and Development” for more information about planning appeals.
Where a development in a national park or reserve is likely to have a significant impact on a matter of national environmental significance, a person aggrieved may apply to the Federal Court for judicial review of a decision to grant approval under the EPBC Act. See “Challenging Decisions” for more information about judicial review.
Injunction to prevent unlawful activity
Where a development or activity is likely to have a significant impact on a matter of national environmental significance and has not been approved under the EPBC Act, a person aggrieved can apply to the Federal Court for an injunction to prevent the development or activity until approval is granted. See “Challenging Decisions” for information about applying for an injunction.
In 2012, the Tasmanian government closed a number of off-road vehicle tracks in the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area after reports showed the tracks were causing unacceptable impacts on heritage values.
In 2014, the new Tasmanian government released details of a proposal to re-open the tracks.
The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre Inc (TAC) applied for an injunction under the EPBC Act, arguing that opening the tracks would have a significant impact on the indigenous heritage values of the National Heritage listed Western Tasmania Aboriginal Cultural Landscape.
On 23 December 2014, the Federal Court granted an interim injunction preventing the government from opening the tracks until the case was heard. A final decision on whether to grant a permanent injunction has not yet been made. For updates on the case, click here.