Tasmanian Conservation Trust Inc.

Media releases

 

Media Releases 2007-8

 

The Tasmanian Conservation Trust has today reiterated that the proposed pulp mill must not, and can not proceed without assessment by the RPDC. TCT Director Craig Woodfield pointed out that the proposal must also be assessed by the Commonwealth Government, and that the mechanism for doing this was delegated to the State via the bilateral agreement. “On 26 October 2005, the Federal Environment Minister accredited the Integrated Assessment Process under the Tasmanian State Policies and Projects Act 1993 as the mechanism for assessing the pulp mill.” “Without an assessment process at a state level, there is no assessment process at a Commonwealth level, and there can therefore be no approval at a Commonwealth level. Our preliminary advice is that the project is dead, and state legislation will not change this.”

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The Tasmanian Conservation Trust has today reiterated that the proposed pulp mill must not, and can not proceed without assessment by the RPDC. TCT Director Craig Woodfield said that the withdrawal of the proposal by Gunns must not result in some form of enabling legislation from the Tasmanian Government. “If this occurs, then due process, transparency and accountability in Tasmania is well and truly dead and buried.” Mr. Woodfield pointed out that the proposal must also be assessed by the Commonwealth Government, and that the mechanism for doing this was delegated to the State via the bilateral agreement. “Without an assessment process at a state level, there is no assessment process at a Commonwealth level, and there can therefore be no approval at a Commonwealth level. Our preliminary advice is that the project is dead.”

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The Tasmanian Conservation Trust has today attacked amendments to the Water Management Act, introduced into parliament this morning, which will remove the oversight of the threatened species and forestry experts as well as wind back appeal rights. TCT Director Craig Woodfield said that this proposal was nothing more than an attempt to silence critics of environmentally damaging large dam proposals, both internal and external to Government. He also revealed that the Minister had barred his Department from distributing the draft Bill to key stakeholders such as the TCT.

“The Tasmanian Government has never forgotten how the TCT exposed the Meander Dam for what it truly was through the appeals system. They are hoping to resurrect a number of previously failed dam projects are trying to gag us, scientists within the Government and the rest of the community in the process.”

Mr. Woodfield said that the number of appeals lodged on dam approvals was tiny, especially compared with other legislation.

“In the last seven years there have been less than 20 appeals over dams. Last year alone there were almost 100 appeals on residential building applications.”

”The only reason to change this law is to hide unsustainable development from independent scrutiny.”

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Tasmania’s peak conservation group has today participated in the formal launch of the Forest Stewardship Council of Australia (FSC) in Melbourne. FSC is an internationally recognised standard that features strong environmental protection.

TCT Director Craig Woodfield said that this is an exciting new development and has the potential to help break the deadlock in the forestry debate in Tasmania.

“FSC is as about environmentally sustainable logging. It enables private landholders to get a return from the timber on their land as well as look after the environment.”

The TCT is a member of Environmental Chamber of FSC Australia and a strong supporter of its standards.

“I encourage all private landholders to investigate the benefits of getting their logging operations FSC certified.”

Visit the FSC website at www.fscaustralia.org

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The Tasmanian Conservation Trust has today labelled plans to truck 300,000 tonnes of softwood logs from Strahan to Scottsdale as environmentally damaging. TCT Director Craig Woodfield said that the extra trucking would damage roads, increase roadkill and make a significant contribution to the State’s already high greenhouse gas emissions.

“A very rough estimate based on the 700 km round trip from Strahan to Scottsdale indicates that this exercise will produce an extra 2,000 tonnes greenhouse gases. And this is a very conservative estimate.”

This calculation is based on figures provided by the Australian Greenhouse Office of 2.7 kg of greenhouse gases produced per litre of diesel consumed.

Mr. Woodfield said that this was just the latest in the series of negatives that have resulted from Auspine losing access to local sawlog resource.

“This a perverse outcome, which will ultimately effect the social, economic and environmental bottom line of not just the northeast, but the whole of Tasmania.”

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Tasmania’s peak conservation group has today said that a shortened duck season is still an unacceptable and unsustainable response to the drought and stressed waterbird populations.

TCT Director Craig Woodfield said that this is the latest in a series of decisions made by the Minister which contrary to the advice of experts within his Department.

“The Minister cannot provide one single expert to support his decision to continue with the season.

“The only responsible reaction to the well-documented reduction in numbers and health of waterbirds this year is to cancel the season altogether. This is no longer just an animal welfare issue, it is a sustainable resource management issue.”

Mr. Woodfield said that duck shooters who supported the season under these conditions had little credibility.

“South Australian duck shooters have accepted that there should be no season this year because of the impacts of the drought on waterbird populations. Tasmanian shooters obviously have no such qualms.”

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Delegates at the Devil Facial Tumour Disease scientific forum that finished today in Hobart have been told that the Tasmanian devil may only be 10 to 15 years away from extinction, and the window of opportunity to avert this calamity is rapidly closing.

TCT Director Craig Woodfield says that such statements emphasise the importance of the continued support for the program, but also that it is essential that new initiatives be considered to try and save this species.

“The extinction of the Tasmanian devil would alter our terrestrial ecosystems almost beyond recognition. It would also be a massive economic and social loss for our state.

“The entire Tasmanian community must get involved, and the Tasmanian Government needs to show real leadership and provide real resources. If we do not, then generations to come will remember us as the ones who this most iconic of species disappear forever.”

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Members and supporters of Against Animal Cruelty Tasmania (AACT) the Tasmanian Conservation Trust (TCT) and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals will today protest against the opening of Tasmania’s Duck Shooting season in Hobart.

The protest will be staged at 12:30p.m. outside the Department of Primary Industries and Water offices on the corner of Macquarie and Murray Streets with protestors dressed in colourful vests and carrying giant windsocks and flags that will be used to scare away ducks from the shooter’s guns on the wetlands.

Campaign to end Duck Shooting Co-ordinator for AACT, Chris Simcox stating: We want to send a clear message to David Llewellyn that duck shooting is not a sport and the recreational shooting of ducks should be banned. Tasmania is falling behind on the animal welfare front with Queensland, Western Australia and New South Wales all having banned this barbarism.

Recent aerial surveys conducted by waterbird expert Professor Richard Kingsford of the University of New South Wales, showed duck numbers to be critically low across the Eastern states due to the drought. Professor Kingsford has recently stated publicly that, the long-term survival of some duck species will be placed at risk if this year’s duck shooting season goes ahead in Tasmania.

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The Tasmanian Conservation Trust has today revealed the extent to which the Tasmanian Government bureaucrats are misrepresenting the level of support for proposed changes to large dam assessment and approval processes.

In 2005, the Minister for Primary Industries and Water called for submissions on the operation of the Water Management Act. Thirty one were received, which the TCT has recently accessed. Of these 31, only 3 expressed significant concerns about the dam approval process being too stringent. On the other hand, more than half of the submissions received expressed concerns that water management need to be tightened up and greater environmental protection implemented.

TCT Director Craig Woodfield said that it was obvious that the Tasmanian Government was only interested in the views of a minority of a pro-dam lobbyists.

“We have been officially told that in light of the response to the Minister’s call for submissions, it is “understandable” that the Government intends to change the law to make building large dams easier.

“This has now been shown to be absolute nonsense. The bottom line is that the State Government wants to try and build more environmentally damaging, economically unviable large dams, and is willing to change the law to facilitate this.”

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Tasmania’s peak conservation group has today labelled the Dorset EDG proposal for a massive increase in dairy production in Tasmania’s northeast, as highlighted in yesterday’s Examiner, as flawed and unviable. TCT Director Craig Woodfield says that the whole proposal is predicated on a series of decade-old dam proposals that are unviable, and in most cases, unbuildable. “What we are seeing here is a classic Tasmanian strategy – flogging a dead horse. Rather than look for new and innovate ways of dealing with the State Government-induced crisis in the northeast, the Dorset EDG has dragged out something that has already failed to work.” Mr. Woodfield said that any attempt to railroad these dam proposals through the system would result in a bitter and protracted fight with the conservation movement.

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Tasmania’s peak conservation group has today released advice from the Forest Practices Authority that the Waterhouse Dam, proposed for the Boobyalla River in Tasmania’s northeast, cannot be built.

The Minister for Primary Industries and Water has publicly stated that the failed Waterhouse Dam is one of the reasons that amendments to the Water Management Act will be rushed through parliament later this year. The amendments will, amongst other things, limit appeal rights.

However, in documents obtained by the TCT, Tasmania’s Chief Forest Practices Officer advised the proponents of the dam in 2003 that the dam could not be built. He said at that time that “…my advice to you is that I do not believe that the Board’s obligations under the RFA, the NHT 2 Bilateral Agreement and the Board’s moratorium on clearing endangered forests would allow it to certify a forest practices plan for the clearing of the Waterhouse Eucalyptus ovata forest. In my view, any such forest practices plan submitted to the Board would be refused.”

TCT Director Craig Woodfield says that the Tasmanian Government appears ready to once again ride roughshod over due process and common sense. “It makes no sense at all to try and resurrect failed dam proposals such as Waterhouse.

This Government appears to be 100% committed to repeating the mistakes of the past rather than moving forward.”

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With less than 3 weeks to go until Clean Up Australia Day, the registration of sites in Tasmania’s capital city has been very disappointing. So far only 3 sites have been registered in the Hobart municipality, whilst the Clarence and the Huon Valley municipalities have each already registered more than 20 sites.

CUAD Tasmanian Coordinator Alexis Vertolli has called on Hobart residents to pitch in and participate in Clean Up Australia Day on Sunday March 4. “We are hoping to mobilise 1 million volunteers for this years Clean up Australia Day, and we need Hobartians to pull their weight.”

Registrations can be done online at www.cleanup.org or by ringing 1800 282 329. The Tasmanian Conservation Trust has hosted Clean Up Australia Day since its inception in Tasmania in 1992.

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The Tasmanian Conservation Trust has today attacked proposals by the Tasmanian Government to wind back appeal rights on major dam projects.

TCT Director Craig Woodfield said that this proposal was nothing more than an attempt to silence critics of environmentally damaging large dam proposals. “The Tasmanian Government has never forgotten how the TCT exposed the Meander Dam for what it truly was through the appeals system. They are hoping to resurrect a number of previously failed dam projects are trying to gag us in the process.”

Mr. Woodfield said that the number of appeals lodged on dam approvals was minsicule, especially compared with other legislation. “In the last seven years there have been less than 20 appeals over dams.

Last year alone there were more than 50 appeals on residential building applications.” ”The only reason to change this law is to hide unsustainable development from independent scrutiny.”

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Proposed amendments to a range of legislation will give the Assessment Committee for Dam Construction total authority over dam permits.

Under the proposed changes experts from other government agencies not be required to be consulted, and neither will additional permits be required. In particular, the Threatened Species Section and the Forest Practices Authority will be totally removed from the dam assessment and approval process.

Appeal rights will also be gutted, removing the capacity of third parties to contest decisions made on dam applications. TCT Director Craig Woodfield describes these changes as the biggest erosion of environmental protection laws since the signing of the Regional Forest Agreement in 1997. “These proposed changes are an absolute disgrace, and will result in major environmental impacts. Dam builders will be given free rein, with none of the checks and balances that are necessary to ensure sustainable development."

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The admission that the Tasmanian Government is trying, and failing, to sell water form the Meander Dam at $27 a megalitre is further proof of the lack of unviability of this enormous white elephant.

TCT Director Craig Woodfield said that the figure of $27 is only half of the most optimistic of the Government’s previous sales prices, and at such a rate the dam will never be able to recoup the tens of millions of dollars of taxpayers money that has been invested in it.

“This is effectively the Spirit 3 of the Meander Valley – an enormous waste of time and money” said Mr. Woodfield. “The Tasmanian Government has had numerous opportunities to walk away from this project, most recently when a commercial venture failed completely at the end of 2005.

It is the Tasmanian taxpayer who will ultimately foot the bill for the Meander Dam.” The TCT succeeded in having the dam’s licence revoked in 2003 when scientists and economists testified against the dam. The State Government passed special legislation later that year to restore the dam’s approval.

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TCT submission on the Tasmanian Government’s Draft Climate Change Strategy says that whilst the strategy has much to recommend it, the lack of a target to actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions is a significant omission.

It is almost as if the Tasmanian Government has ignored all the major international findings on the social, economic and environmental impacts of climate change. Even though Tasmania’s greenhouse gas emissions were not high in a national context, they almost certainly were in an international context.

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One million Australians are needed to help fight climate change as part of the 2007 Clean Up Australia Day campaign and businesses across Tasmania are being urged to get involved on 27 February.

Clean Up Australia Chairman Ian Kiernan AO said being a part of a massive community campaign to tackle growing problems such as electronic or e-waste, which is being sent to landfill at three times the rate of other general or municipal waste, will help reduce damaging greenhouse emissions.

For the first time this year businesses can participate by registering their office and committing to implementing an environmentally sustainable initiative in the work place.

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The confirmation of more fox scats being found in the midlands is worrying news TCT Director Craig Woodfield said that this emphasises the importance of finalising new funding arrangements for the fox taskforce and that foxes presented the single biggest threat to terrestrial biodiversity in Tasmania.

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The release of the annual report for Tasmania’s forest practice system has highlighted how Tasmania’s forest practices system is still failing to protect threatened forest communities. The Forest Practices Authority openly admits in the report that high levels of conversion of some threatened forest communities have potentially long-term ramifications for the maintenance of regional biodiversity. TCT Director Craig Woodfield said today that this underscores the findings of the Supreme Court in the recent Weilangta case that forestry operations in Tasmania are not protecting biodiversity.

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Government Must Appoint Person of Highest Integrity and Independence to Head RPDC The debacle over Julian Green and Dr Warwick Raverty's resignations from the Resource Planning and Development Commission (RPDC) has thrown serious doubt over the integrity of the RPDC process not just for the pulp mill assessment, but for residents opposed to the destruction of the Ralphs Bay Conservation Area, and other community groups representing their concerns before the Commission.

In a joint statement today, the Tasmanian Conservation Trust, Save Ralphs Bay Inc. and the Tasmanian Beekeepers' Association said the Lennon Government had corrupted the planning process by meddling in the work of the Commission, while at the same time assuring concerned communities to have faith in the 'independent umpire'.

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