The Wilderness Society (TWS) and Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) have had a win in the ongoing battle over the development of a tourism venture at Lake Malbena in Tasmania’s Central Plateau. The Federal Court has set aside the decision by the federal environment minister Melissa Price that the Wild Drake heli-fishing camp in the World Heritage listed Walls of Jerusalem national park is not a ‘controlled action’ under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. (A controlled action can avoid full environmental assessment).
The federal government’s controversial decision in August 2018 to allow helicopter flights and huts on Lake Malbena had been challenged in the Federal Court. Earlier this year, TWS sought a judicial review of the Federal Environment Minister’s decision that the Halls Island, Lake Malbena development is “not a controlled action” under the [federal] Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
This is a great outcome.
This decision does not stop the proposal. It means that the Parks and Wildlife Service cannot grant proper approval of the proposal. It will now be sent back for proper approvals process under the EPBC Act. Wilderness Society spokesman Tom Allen says the decision had effectively put a stop to the plans that included huts, a communal building, walkways and helicopter flights.
“A luxury tourism development planned for a remote World Heritage area in Tasmania has fallen over after an environment group successfully challenged the decision.
The federal government’s decision in August 2018 to allow helicopter flights and huts on Lake Malbena at the Walls of Jerusalem National Park was overturned in the Federal Court on Tuesday.
Justice Debbie Mortimer ordered the decision made by then environment minister Josh Frydenberg’s delegate that the project was “not a controlled action” be set aside.
The delegate who made the decision at the time is current Environment Minister Melissa Price.
Wilderness Society Tasmania spokesman Tom Allen welcomed the news.
“It’s a pretty positive decision,” Mr Allen told AAP on Tuesday.
He said it had effectively put a stop to the plans that included huts, a communal building, walkways and helicopter flights.
But he said it called into question the way the state and federal governments made decisions around the environment.
The federal court judge also awarded costs to the Wilderness Society, to be paid in an agreed lump sum.
The project for the huts was given the tick of approval despite the National Parks and Wildlife Advisory Council – an independent body tasked with advising state and federal governments – advising against it.
Tasmanian federal independent MP Andrew Wilkie said the decision was a relief because the project didn’t satisfy sensible environmental and social criteria.
“We need to do better to protect our wilderness areas from inappropriate developments and this is a triumph of common sense,” the MP said.
The plan for the development was strongly supported by the state Liberal government.