The controversial ‘helicopter tourism’ development planned for Halls Island in Lake Malbena on Tasmania’s central plateau had previously been approved by state and federal governments. The local Council was the last government authority which needed to sign off on the project. It had been hoped that the rejection by Council would be the end of the proposal.
However, the developer has lodged an appeal against this decision. Hearings are currently underway in Hobart.
The ‘eco tourism’ development planned for Lake Malbena will introduce ‘helicopter tourism’ to the central plateau of Tasmania. Approvals have been ‘waved through’ by the federal government, despite three official expert bodies lashing the proposal or calling for it to be rejected.
The decision threatens to open the floodgate to a host of other private tourism operations proposed for the World Heritage-listed area.
In a new development, the senate has called on federal Environment Minister Melissa Price to conduct a full assessment of the Lake Malbena development, including public consultation.
Tasmania has a world class conservation system. From the South West Wilderness to the Central Plateau, to the Ben Lomond tablelands, it is brimming with wonderful landscapes that are protected as national parks, world heritage or other forms of park. But these parks didn’t just happen. All of them are the result of tireless work by many thousands of people, sometimes over decades.
From the attempts to stop Lake Pedder from being flooded in the 1970s, the Franklin River campaign of the early 1980s, and the long forest campaigns that followed in places like the Styx, the Florentine, Lemonthyme, and the Great Western Tiers, through to the current attempts to ensure proper protection for the Tarkine / takayna region in the north west, people have campaigned for decades to see these areas protected for all time.
Climate change poses an existential threat to many of the natural ecosystems currently protected in the park network. But there is also a pushback by government and some vested interests and sections of the community against the basic notion of protecting these places.
Regardless of who wins the federal election, life will go on, and winter snows are getting closer. But it is still easy to get depressed about the chaotic state of federal politics, and the appalling lack of action on climate change that we have witnessed under the current Coalition government. Fires burnt large areas of the mountains this summer, there are ongoing attempts to allow commercial developments in national parks and other wild places, and feral horses have, in effect, been given protected status in Kosciuszko national park. Faced with ever more intense fire seasons, the forests are getting younger as we get older.
As the saying goes, ‘if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.’ And, if you’re paying the slightest bit of attention to the natural world, then it’s normal to feel constant Solastalgia.
So, its important to hold hope and to pay attention to the good things that are happening. As Outside magazine recently reminded us, being out in nature is good for our bodies and also our emotional health. And there are also many good developments affecting the places that we love.
The controversial ‘helicopter tourism’ development planned for Halls Island in Lake Malbena on Tasmania’s central plateau had previously been approved by state and federal governments. One of the first acts of the Morrison government was to greenlight a private tourism development with helicopter access in Tasmanian world heritage wilderness against the recommendation of an expert advisory body. The local Council was the last government authority which needed to sign off on the project.
The final vote happened at a packed meeting held on February 26, with three councillors voting for, and six against the proposal.
As we know, under the current very pro ‘development’ Liberal government in Tasmania there are no end of proposals for private developments in national parks and other parts of the conservation network.
One that has been receiving a lot of attention is the proposal to build a small ‘top end’ facility that would rely on helicopter tourism at Lake Malbena, inside the Walls of Jerusalem National Park in central Tasmania.
It has been reported that the Morrison government ‘waved through approval for a luxury tourist development and helipad in the pristine Tasmanian wilderness’ despite three official expert bodies lashing the proposal or calling for it to be rejected.
Tasmania is blessed with beautiful and intact landscapes and excellent protection of much of the state. World Heritage Areas and national parks have long been coveted by developers and have been resisted – with varying degrees of success – over the years. The old saying ‘Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom’ is certainly true in a place like Tasmania.
Under the current very pro ‘development’ Liberal government in Tasmania there are no end of proposals for private developments in national parks and other parts of the conservation network (check here for a current list).
Mountain Journal has covered some of these, including:
There is also a new proposal being pursued which would see helicopter tourism at Lake Malbena, inside the Walls of Jerusalem National Park in central Tasmania.
Ellen Coulter, writing for the ABC reports that the ‘UNESCO World Heritage Committee has raised concerns about Tasmania’s wilderness areas being rezoned for tourism developments and called on the State Government to speed up a Tourism Master Plan requested in 2015.
In the document, the committee also raised concerns about the State Government’s rezoning of some wilderness areas to allow for tourism opportunities and wider aircraft access.
In November 2018, it was reported that the Morrison government ‘waved through approval for a luxury tourist development and helipad in the pristine Tasmanian wilderness despite three official expert bodies lashing the proposal or calling for it to be rejected, documents show.
The decision threatens to open the floodgate to a host of other private tourism operations proposed for the World Heritage-listed area – an encroachment the United Nations has warned may damage the internationally-renowned natural treasure. Conservationists say the government ruling proves federal environment laws must be overhauled’. Full story from the ABC available here.
Lake Malbena proposal
A company called Wild Drake’s plans to build and operate a small standing camp on Halls Island, Lake Malbena, on the eastern edge of the Walls of Jerusalem National Park.
The camp would support activities ‘including kayaking, hill walks, bushwalking, cultural interpretation, wildlife viewing, poetry, art, botany, bird watching, astronomy and “citizen science” trips with guest experts in science, art and culture’.
“The primary theme of the project is one of cultural immersion …,” documents lodged with the federal environment department by Wild Drake said.
“Key target markets will be discerning travellers looking for new discoveries, deep heritage and strong narratives, natural encounters and lean luxury.”
The company said it would be a small-scale operation aimed at the “very top end of the market”.
Customers would be flown to the island by helicopter from Derwent Bridge.
They have developed a consortium called the Geeves Effect, and are pushing for a 2.5 km track extension to ‘provide walkers with views of Lake Geeves’. They say that ‘the bushwalk could rival Cradle Mountain and Three Capes Tracks as a tourism magnet’.
It is being opposed by a range of environment groups.
The attempt by some in government and business to open up World Heritage and other protected areas to commercial development has seen a long running campaign by those who fear that individual developments could be the ‘thin end of the wedge’ and open the door to much greater incursion.
Recently there has been substantial concern about plans to build a fly-in, fly-out luxury camp at Lake Malbena in Tasmania’s Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) on the Central Plateau. It is a remote location, to the south east of the famed Walls of Jerusalem area. The plan includes a helipad, accommodation, kitchen and toilet facilities.
Now, leaked documents show that Tasmania’s national parks advisory body argued against the controversial development which has been supported by both the State and Federal Governments.
The new federal environment minister, Melissa Price, has approved a controversial proposal to allow ‘helicopter tourism’ and a small commercial operation inside the Walls of Jerusalem national park in Central Tasmania.
Having a new federal environment minister is an opportunity to hit the ‘reset’ button on particular issues that come under the minister’s jurisdiction. The decision to approve this application can only be seen as a disappointing early move from the new government under PM Scott Morrison.
The minister’s department considered ‘that the proposal is not likely to have significant impacts on any nationally protected environmental matters’. However the proposal includes plans for 120 helicopter flights a year on to Halls Island inside the park.
The final stage in the approvals process rests with the Central Highlands Council.
Tasmania is blessed with beautiful and intact landscapes and an impressive network of national parks. However, World Heritage Areas and national parks have long been targeted by developers who want to establish commercial tourist operations in a number of places (check here for a current list of proposed developments). One of these proposals would see helicopter tourism inside the Walls of Jerusalem National Park in central Tasmania at Halls Island in Lake Malbena.