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Tuesday, 11 August 2009
Page: 4633


Senator Milne asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, upon notice, on 26 May 2009:

With reference to the answer to question on notice no. 1389 (Senate Hansard, 14 May 2009, p.125):

(1)   In the interests of ensuring Commonwealth Government compliance with the spirit and intent of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and in the interests of applying Commonwealth controls to the potentially-threatening activity of heavy vehicle traffic across the Richmond Bridge, will the Commonwealth Government ensure that a reduced load limit is placed on the bridge by the Tasmanian Government as a condition of finalising the management plan; if not, why not.

(2)   In regard to the Commonwealth Government’s allocation of funds in 2007 to assist the Tasmanian Government in conducting laser scans of the Richmond Bridge:

(a)   how were the details and structural findings of the laser scan incorporated into the current draft conservation management plan and/or the final conservation management plan; and

(b)   was any structural analysis a requirement for the preparation of the draft and/or final management plans; if not, why not.

(3)   What rights, obligations and/or responsibilities does the Commonwealth Government have regarding:

(a)   the protection of structures, for example Richmond Bridge, which are listed on the National Heritage List (NHL) and owned by state governments; and

(b)   the protection of structures such as buildings that are privately-owned and listed on the NHL.

(4)   Given that the current draft conservation management plan for the Richmond Bridge has recommended the current load limit of 25 tonnes remain the same:

(a)   when did the Commonwealth Government express its concern to the Tasmanian Government regarding heavy vehicles being driven across the bridge;

(b)   what Commonwealth Government key concerns were expressed to the Tasmanian Government;

(c)   what action, if any, did the Commonwealth Government request the Tasmanian Government to undertake to mitigate and/or eliminate expressed concerns; and

(d)   what was the Tasmanian Government’s response to these expressed concerns and is the Commonwealth Government satisfied with its response; if not, why not.

(5)   In regard to the allocation of funds for the 2007-08 financial year to prepare a new conservation management plan for the Richmond Bridge:

(a)   who or which department informed the Commonwealth Government that a structural analysis of the bridge was not required and/or necessary;

(b)   what reasons were provided to demonstrate that a structural analysis was not required or necessary; and

(c)   when did such discussions, either written or verbal, take place.


Senator Wong (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

(1)   Under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) the Commonwealth must use its best endeavours to ensure that the responsible State or self-governing Territory makes a management plan for a National Heritage place in the State or Territory.  However, the Commonwealth has no statutory power to approve the plan.  The Commonwealth Government does not, therefore, have power under the EPBC Act to require that the conservation management plan for Richmond Bridge include a reduced traffic load.  The provisions regarding National Heritage in the EPBC Act which are discussed further below in relation to questions 3(a) and 3(b) reflect the scope of the Commonwealth’s constitutional power in relation to National Heritage. This is less extensive than its constitutional power in other areas regulated by the Act such as, for example, World Heritage.

(2)  

(a)   Discussion on the use of the laser scan results can be found in a number of sections of the current draft conservation management plan (June 2008 version), but particularly in Section 7.5.3 (pg 174) and Table 15 (pg 183).

(b)   See the answer to question 1 above that refers to the extent of Commonwealth power in this regard.

(3)  

(a)   The EPBC Act prohibits certain actions that will have or are likely to have a significant impact on the National Heritage values of a National Heritage place unless the action has been referred under the Act and the Minister has approved the action (or some other provision in the Act allows the action to be taken).  The National Heritage provisions apply to a range of actions including actions by constitutional corporations or by the Commonwealth, actions taken for the purpose of interstate and international trade and commerce, actions taken in a Commonwealth area (defined by section 525) or a Territory, and actions that are likely to affect an area protected by Article 8 of the Convention on Biological Diversity.  While there is no general provision in the Act which applies to National Heritage places owned by State governments, some actions in relation to State owned places may be subject to the Act because they fall within the specific provisions.

(b)   Whether an action that affects a privately owned building or structure in a National Heritage place requires approval under the Act will depend on whether the action falls within the classes of actions prohibited by the National Heritage provisions, for example, because the action was taken by a constitutional corporation or because the property is in a Commonwealth area or a Territory. The Commonwealth Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts is responsible for making a National Heritage management plan for any National Heritage place (privately or publicly owned) that is wholly located in a Commonwealth area.  The Commonwealth and Commonwealth agencies must not contravene, or authorise any other person to contravene the plan.  If there is no plan in place the Commonwealth and Commonwealth agencies must take all reasonable steps to ensure that any actions that they take relating to the place are consistent with the National Heritage management principles. If a National Heritage place (whether privately or publicly owned) is located in a State or Territory the Commonwealth and Commonwealth agencies must take all reasonable steps to ensure that their powers and functions in relation to the place are exercised consistently with a National Heritage management plan made by the responsible State or Territory, or if no plan has been prepared, the National Heritage management principles (found in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Regulations). The provisions of the Act which prohibit the taking of any action that will have or is likely to have a significant impact on the National Heritage values of a National Heritage place apply to the Commonwealth and Commonwealth agencies.  In addition a Commonwealth agency must not take any action that is likely to have an adverse impact on the National Heritage place unless there is no feasible and prudent alternative to taking the action, and all measures that can reasonably be taken to mitigate the impact of the action are taken.

(4)  

(a)   and (b)  As early as 1999 the Commonwealth Government notified the Tasmanian Department of Infrastructure, Energy and Resources (DIER) of the Commonwealth’s concern over the passage of heavy traffic across Richmond Bridge.  After the listing of Richmond Bridge in the National Heritage List, my Department formally wrote to DIER in July 2007 to express concern over speed limits, vehicle loading, and damage caused by vehicle accidents on the bridge.  In comments sent to DIER in June 2008 on the draft conservation management plan (April 2008 version), my Department again raised the issue of damage to the fabric of the bridge by ongoing vehicle traffic.

(c)   and  (d)  In the letter of July 2007, my Department requested that DIER reply with a statement of measures that DIER intended to immediately introduce to protect the heritage values of Richmond Bridge.  A DIER response in August 2007 included a statement that traffic management in the precinct of the bridge was being reviewed, and that the findings would be incorporated into their review of the conservation management plan.  A subsequent review of the draft conservation management plan received by my Department in May 2008 found deficiencies in the policies relating to managing the impact of vehicle traffic on the bridge.  These concerns were forwarded to DIER in June 2008.  DIER has subsequently informed my Department that revised traffic management policies are being incorporated into the final conservation management plan.

(5) (a)   , (b) and (c)  My Department has not been informed that a structural analysis of Richmond Bridge is not required or is unnecessary.  However, the draft conservation management plan includes the results of previous structural analyses, and recommends that vibration monitoring rather than a further structural study be employed for assessing the impact of vehicle load limits (pg 173).