The Wilderness Society has launched legal action in the Federal Court to challenge the Federal Government’s recent decision to wave through the Halls Island luxury heli-accessed huts at Lake Malbena in the World Heritage-listed Walls of Jerusalem National Park.
In August, the Federal Environment Minister (by her delegate) determined that the luxury tourism development and hundreds of associated helicopter flights would not have a significant impact on the World Heritage Area, and therefore not need approval. This is despite contrary advice from Government-appointed experts, concern from the World Heritage Committee, a secret zone change in the World Heritage Area’s management plan and no overarching plan for managing tourism impacts and protecting values.
“At the time this proposal was waved through the federal process we said that it was a deficient decision that ignored impacts on World Heritage values like wilderness,” said Vica Bayley, spokesperson for the Wilderness Society.
“At a bare minimum, given the weight of evidence and the level of expert and community concern, this project should have been subject to a rigorous federal assessment. Instead, it was rubber stamped against the expectations of the Tasmanian and international communities.
Specifically, the Wilderness Society’s case will look at whether the delegate made a legal error when concluding that no further assessment of the proposal was required, and in not imposing any conditions to ensure significant impacts on wilderness values were avoided.
“World Heritage status is an iconic acknowledgement of the importance of an area that delivers great kudos and an international reputation for being the best of the best. While it’s of immense brand and economic value to Tasmania, it comes with responsibility to meet the obligations of the World Heritage Convention.
“Given the volume and expertise of formal opposition to this proposal and the concerns expressed by the World Heritage Committee, there is a real question whether a lowest-common-denominator decision under federal law is adequate to meet Australia’s World heritage obligations.