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Thursday, 14 November 2002
Page: 6473

Senator Brown asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, upon notice, on 18 October 2002:

With reference to the answers to questions on notice Nos 596, 597 and 598 (Senate Hansard, 15 October 2002, pp. 5180-81), and given the distinction being drawn by the Minister in those answers between the terms `development' and `operation':

(1) What advice has the Australian Heritage Commission issued on any aspect of the Dismal Swamp in Tasmania regarding any matters including development and/or operation of tourist or any other facilities or uses or planned facilities or uses, since 1992.

(2) In each case: (a) who sought the advice; (b) why was the advice sought; (c) what was the advice; (d) to whom and by whom was it given; and (e) was the Minister or any of his predecessors advised; if not, why not; if so, what action followed.

(3) What was the reason for the 1999 matter being referred for advice.

(4) (a) In what way does the present proposal differ, or what other matters intervened, to excuse the current development from reference to the commission; and (b) who made this decision.

(5) Are there matters of national environmental significance at Dismal Swamp; if so: (a) what are they; and (b) why will they not be affected by the present development.

Senator Hill (Minister for Defence) —The Minister for the Environment and Heritage has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) The Australian Heritage Commission has provided advice on a proposal by Forestry Tasmania to construct a lookout, interpretation site and parking bay at Dismal Swamp near Smithton in north-west Tasmania.

(2) (a) the advice was sought by the then Department of Industry, Science and Tourism (DIST). (b) DIST was complying with its obligations under s.30 of the Australian Heritage Commission Act 1975, to seek the advice of the Australian Heritage Commission in matters where a Commonwealth decision was to be made in relation to a place entered in the Register of the National Estate;

(c) The advice provided in April 1999, stated that on-ground works should be conducted outside the area identified in the RFA process as a reserve and vegetation clearance (especially of Eucalyptus brookerana) should be kept to a minimum. The proponent was also advised to consult with the Aboriginal community so that Aboriginal cultural heritage issues could be included in the information provided for visitors. (d) The advice was provided to DIST by the Australian Heritage Commission. (e) Neither the Minister nor his predecessors was advised as the Australian Heritage Commission, a statutory authority, provides s.30 advice directly to the referring agency.

(3) The Dismal Swamp proposal was referred to the Australian Heritage Commission in 1999 because the place had been entered in the Register of the National Estate and because Forestry Tasmania was seeking Commonwealth funding for the project.

(4) (a) and (b) The present proposal has not as yet been provided to the Australian Heritage Commission for comment. Forestry Tasmania's media releases indicate that the present proposal maintains the intent of the original to interpret the blackwood forest and its environment, but is a larger development than that referred to the Australian Heritage Commission in 1999. That project has not proceeded and the original Commonwealth funding remains unspent. Forestry Tasmania is now proposing to develop a $2 million project, including a visitor centre, timber viewing platform, a 30m slide and a 2km maze and walkway. This project will receive $1 million funding from the Tasmanian government. The project is currently before the local council for planning approval. When this has been received Forestry Tasmania will approach the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources (DITR) to renegotiate the contract for the expenditure of the original 1999 grant. At that time DITR intends to refer the matter to the Australian Heritage Commission for advice under s.30 of the Australian Heritage Commission Act. At present neither DITR nor the AHC has a proposal to consider.

(5) The Environment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 currently identifies six matters of national environmental significance: World Heritage properties; Ramsar wetlands of international significance; listed threatened species and ecological communities; listed migratory species; Commonwealth marine areas; and nuclear actions - none of which apply to Dismal Swamp.