National Parks & Reserves

Summary

Under the Tasmanian Planning Scheme, most of Tasmania’s National Parks and Reserves, including our World Heritage Areas, are zoned Environmental Management Zone. PMAT’s primary concern is what is Permitted in this zone, how developments are assessed and the lack of set-back provisions undermining the integrity of reserved land. For example, commercial tourism development, along with many other Permitted uses, can be approved in most Tasmanian National Parks and Reserves, with no guarantee of public consultation or rights to appeal. This means the public has no guarantee of public comment and no appeal rights over public reserved land on almost 50% of Tasmania.

PMAT's Key Concerns

  1. Under the Tasmanian Planning Scheme there is no guarantee of public consultation and rights to appeal on developments in National Parks and Reserves, including our World Heritage Areas. Commercial tourism development, along with many other Permitted uses, can be approved in most Tasmanian National Parks and Reserves, including our World Heritage Areas, with no guarantee of public consultation or rights to appeal. This means the public has no guarantee of public comment and no appeal rights over public reserved land on almost 50% of Tasmania.
  2. The Permitted uses that are allowed in our National Parks and Reserves, including our World Heritage Areas, are incompatible with protected areas. Permitted uses include: Community Meeting and Entertainment, Educational and Occasional Care, Food Services, General Retail and Hire, Pleasure Boat Facility, Research and Development, Residential, Resource Development, Sports and Recreation, Tourist Operation, Utilities and Visitor Accommodation.
  3. Buildings can be built up to the boundary, encroaching on the integrity of our National Parks and Reserves, including our World Heritage Areas and coastal reserves.
  4. Very slow progress on the long-awaited review of the Reserve Activity Assessment process, the internal government process by which developments in National Parks and Reserves, including our World Heritage Areas, are assessed. The community waited seven years for the review of the Reserve Activity Assessment process.
  5. The Consultation Paper regarding Reserve Activity Assessment was finally released for public comment on the 11 January 2024. Submissions close on the 8 March 2024. See here.
  6. As per the Consultation Paper, the State Government is proposing a developer friendly development assessment and approval process for the world heritage area, national parks and other reserves. The proposed new ‘Statutory Environmental Impact Assessment Process’ for reserves will enable developers to ask the Minister for Parks to take developments out of the normal planning and environmental assessment process and be given to a Development Assessment Panel (DAP).

  7. Key concerns with the proposed process include no option for merits based planning appeals, potential destruction of reserved land, and Reserve Management plan rules changed to suit developers.

PMAT's Key Recommendations

  1. Amend which developments are Permitted in National Parks and Reserves, including our World Heritage Areas. All Permitted uses in our National Parks and Reserves should be at minimum classed Discretionary (and in many cases should be Prohibited to ensure the integrity of reserved land), as this classification will guarantee public comment and appeal rights on developments.
  2. Amend how close developments can be built next to National Parks and Reserves, including our World Heritage Areas. Setback rules in the Environmental Management Zone must ensure the integrity of our protected areas.
  3. Amend legislation to provide a statutory process for the assessment of significant proposed developments on reserved land, including a process for public consultation and appeal rights. 

    This could include:
    • Amendments to the National Parks and Reserves Management Act 2002 to legally define the Reserve Activity Assessment process; and
    • Incorporating this process into the Land Use Planning and Approvals Act 1993 through referral agency provisions (similar to Level 2 activities referred to the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and development on heritage properties referred to the Heritage Council). Under this scenario, any significant development in national parks and reserves would be characterised as “discretionary” under the relevant planning scheme (unless it was prohibited) and subject to the standard public participation rights. 

Background

Under the Tasmanian Planning Scheme, most of Tasmania’s National Parks and Reserves, including our World Heritage Areas, are zoned Environmental Management Zone.

The purpose of the Environmental Management Zone is to ‘provide for the protection, conservation and management of land with significant ecological, scientific, cultural or scenic value’, and largely applies to public reserved land. 

PMAT’s primary concern is what is Permitted in the Environmental Management Zone, how developments are assessed and the lack of set-back provisions undermining the integrity of, for example, Tasmania’s National Parks.

Permitted Uses in National Parks and Reserves and World Heritage Areas

The Environmental Management Zone allows a range of Permitted uses which PMAT considers are incompatible with protected areas. Permitted uses include: Community Meeting and Entertainment, Educational and Occasional Care, Food Services, General Retail and Hire, Pleasure Boat Facility, Research and Development, Residential, Resource Development, Sports and Recreation, Tourist Operation, Utilities and Visitor Accommodation.

These uses are conditionally permitted. This means they are permitted because they have an authority issued under the National Parks and Reserves Management Regulations 2019, but this does not guarantee good planning outcomes will be achieved, nor does it allow for an appropriate level of public involvement in important decisions concerning these areas.

Set back concerns: developments can be built too close to National Parks and Reserves

There are no setback provisions for the Environmental Management Zone from other Zones as is the case for the Rural and Agricultural Zones. This means that buildings can be built up to the boundary, encroaching on the integrity of our national parks and/or coastal reserves.

Commercial tourism developments in National Parks and Reserves

Commercial tourism development, along with many other Permitted uses, can be approved in most Tasmanian National Parks and Reserves, including our World Heritage Areas, with no guarantee of public consultation or rights to appeal. This means the public has no guarantee of public comment and no appeal rights over public reserved land on almost 50% of Tasmania.

This is also due to the current absence of a statutory basis for the Reserve Activity Assessment (the RAA is the Parks and Wildlife Service’s internal assessment process) and statutory definition of its relationship to the Land Use Planning and Approvals Act 1993

Concerns with the Reserve Activity Assessment (RAA) Process

In 2017, as part of the creation of the Tasmanian Planning Scheme, the Tasmanian Planning Commission identified the level of public concern regarding the Reserve Activity Assessment process and recommended that it be reviewed to improve transparency. 

The then-Minister for Planning Peter Gutwein acknowledged that the Reserve Activity Assessment process “needs review” but made no amendments to the Environmental Management Zone in relation to developments in national parks. 

In 2019, eleven community groups working to protect values in publicly-owned parks and reserves held a joint press conference at Parliament House in Hobart. Frustrated they could not get clarity on the review, the group lodged a Right to Information (RTI) request to seek transparency. See PMAT’s media release here: Has Hodgman abandoned the review of RAA process for developments in national parks and reserves?

Finally, after waiting for the review for approximately seven years, the Consultation Paper regarding Reserve Activity Assessment was finally released for public comment on the 11 January 2024. Submissions close on the 8 March 2024. See here.

As per the Consultation Paper, the State Government is proposing a developer friendly development assessment and approval process for the world heritage area, national parks and other reserves. The proposed new ‘Statutory Environmental Impact Assessment Process’ for reserves will enable developers to ask the Minister for Parks to take developments out of the normal planning and environmental assessment process and be given to a Development Assessment Panel (DAP).

Key concerns with the proposed process include no option for merits based planning appeals, potential destruction of reserved land, and Reserve Management plan rules can be changed to suit developers.

 

News & Media

PMAT Media Release: Has Hodgman abandoned the review of RAA process for developments in national parks and reserves?

In May 2019, eleven community groups working to protect values in publicly-owned parks and reserves held a joint press conference at Parliament House in Hobart frustrated they could not get clarity on the review and resorted to lodging a Right to Information (RTI) request to seek transparency.

For a list of National Parks and Reserves listed under the Nature Conservation Act 2002 managed by the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service – click here.

Freycinet aerial photo credit: With thanks to Rob Blakers at www.robblakers.com
Other images by Jennie Churchill

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