Media release – The Australia Institute Tasmania, 2 August 2022

RTI Documents Released: Complete Disregard for Law & Environment by Tas Government & Planning Commission

A complete disregard for the law by the Tasmanian Planning Commission and a lack of oversight by the Tasmanian Government, has been revealed by the release of documents via a Right to Information request by the Australia Institute Tasmania.

The latest Federal State of the Environment Report paints a grim picture of why these reports are significant, with the previous Minister under fire for burying the report for a number of months. Meanwhile, Tasmania has been left in the dark for not just months, but for over a decade, with the last State of the Environment Report published in 2009.

Key points:

  • Documents released by the Tasmanian Planning Commission under the Right to Information Act 2009 reveal no material progress towards the preparation of a State of the Environment Report.
  • The Tasmanian Planning Commission, a statutory authority, appears to have made a decision not to comply with Tasmanian law requiring it to produce a State of the Environment Report every 5 years
    • Under Section 29 of the State Policies and Projects Act 1993 (Tas) the Commission must produce a State of the Environment Report (SoE Report) every 5 years.
  • The documents show no intervention from the Environment Minister, who appears to have been sidelined from his responsibility to the environment.
    • Furthermore, Minister for Planning, who is responsible for receiving these reports has not intervened. The Department of Justice, who has responsibility for administering the Tasmanian Planning Commission, has also failed to intervene.
  • Multiple reviews of the State of the Environment reporting function have been undertaken since 2013, but they have resulted in no action.
  • There has not been a Tasmanian State of the Environment Report published in over a decade, with the last report published in 2009. Both the 2014 and 2019 reports have been missed.
  • State of the Environment Reports provide consolidated information on the condition, trends and changes in Tasmania’s environment.
    • These reports determine whether Resource Management and Planning System objectives are being met and make recommendations for future action to be taken on the management of resources and the environment.

“There has been a complete absence of government accountability or oversight of this decision and no intervention to require the production of these reports,” said Eloise Carr, Director the Australia Institute Tasmania.

“These documents released by the Tasmanian Planning Commission reveal a shocking lack of accountability, both in terms of the government’s responsibility and the Commission’s. A statutory authority simply doesn’t get to just decide not to comply with the law and there be no consequence.

“The Minister for Planning, who is responsible for receiving the State of the Environment Reports, has not intervened. The Department of Justice, who has responsibility for administering the Tasmanian Planning Commission has not intervened. The Environment Minister appears to have been absolved from his responsibilities to the environment.’

“One of the documents claims there has been ‘no consequence’ from this lack of reporting. However, without any official reporting on the state of Tasmania’s environment how could this conclusion possibly be reached. The available science shows that Tasmania’s environment is in trouble.’

“The Tasmanian Government has chosen to stay wilfully blind to Tasmania’s environmental problems. No State of the Environment Report means no record of environmental problems. But this is no compensation to the Tasmanian industries which rely on Tasmania’s environment to remain healthy for our economy and our community.

“Tasmanians know the environment is in trouble due to climate change and other pressures and biodiversity is declining. This Government needs to be able to have an informed conversation and plan about how we can respond, not just bury their heads in the sand.”

Documents released in relation to the State of the Environment Reporting are available here: https://www.planning.tas.gov.au/other-resources/right-to-information/_nocache