The long campaign against a plan for helicopter-based tourism at Lake Malbena on the Central Plateau in Tasmania has received a welcome boost. The Commonwealth Environment Minister, Sussan Ley, has released a ‘Statement of Reasons’ explaining why she determined that the proposed helicopter-accessed luxury accommodation will be a “controlled action”, requiring a more thorough assessment under the Commonwealth environmental law, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
Tom Allen for the Wilderness Society Tasmania said “Minister Ley’s Statement reveals why, for the first time, an Environment Minister has recognised that the Lake Malbena proposal will significantly and adversely impact threatened species, wilderness character and reduce natural and World Heritage values”.
Tasmania is famed for its wild landscapes, much of which is protected in national parks and World Heritage.
In 2016, the Hodgman Liberal government changed the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) management plan, rezoning various sections of what was once Wilderness zone, into ‘Self Reliant Recreation’ zoning, which allowed developers to propose commercial developments in these zones. Perhaps the highest profile case has involved the plan to allow helicopter landings to take place at Lake Malbena on the Central Plateau. This was approved by the Federal environment minister, and has been slowly moving forward despite a strong community campaign and legal challenge.
In a significant development, it has now been announced the proposal will now require Federal assessment of its environmental impacts.
In December 2019, the Resource Management and Planning Appeal Tribunal (RMPAT) overturned the Central Highlands Council’s decision to refuse a permit for helicopter-accessed visitor accommodation at Halls Island, Lake Malbena, in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. But environmental groups have not given up on this issue.
The Wilderness Society (TWS) and Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) have had a win in the ongoing battle over the development of a tourism venture at Lake Malbena in Tasmania’s Central Plateau. The Federal Court has set aside the decision by the federal environment minister Melissa Price that the Wild Drake heli-fishing camp in the World Heritage listed Walls of Jerusalem national park is not a ‘controlled action’ under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. (A controlled action can avoid full environmental assessment).
The federal government’s controversial decision in August 2018 to allow helicopter flights and huts on Lake Malbena had been challenged in the Federal Court. Earlier this year, TWS sought a judicial review of the Federal Environment Minister’s decision that the Halls Island, Lake Malbena development is “not a controlled action” under the [federal] Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
This is a great outcome.
This decision does not stop the proposal. It means that the Parks and Wildlife Service cannot grant proper approval of the proposal. It will now be sent back for proper approvals process under the EPBC Act. Wilderness Society spokesman Tom Allen says the decision had effectively put a stop to the plans that included huts, a communal building, walkways and helicopter flights.
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.
The proposal for helicopter-accessed luxury huts at Lake Malbena is the test case for more than 30 secret development plans under the current Government’s Expressions of Interest process.
This exclusive and secretive lease of $1,000/year will destroy the serenity and all that is precious about the Western Lakes in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA)
Come along to a public meeting hosted by Fishers and Walkers against helicopter access Tasmania to hear the latest & what we can do about it. Tickets are required (due to Covid) but are free! Sunday, September 20, 2020 at 2 PM – 4 PM
The long campaign against commercial tourist developments in national parks and World Heritage Areas continues.
A flash point in this campaign is 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, and then been bogged down in legal processes.
To highlight opposition to ‘helicopter tourism’, The Wilderness Society and Walkers and Fishers Against Helicopter Access Tasmania have organised a rally in Launceston on Sunday April 5.
The long running attempt by developers to establish a helicopter accessed ‘eco lodge’ on Halls Island in Lake Malbena in Tasmania’s Central Plateau is part of a larger agenda to open up areas of wilderness and World Heritage to new commercial tourism operations.
In December 2019, the Resource Management and Planning Appeal Tribunal (RMPAT) overturned the Central Highlands Council’s decision to refuse a permit for helicopter-accessed visitor accommodation at Halls Island. There was then a challenge in the Supreme Court, followed by an appeal.
There is still a long way to go before the proposal can proceed, and the community campaign against the proposal keeps growing.
Hobart people are encouraged to attend a public meeting to hear about what’s happening and how to get involved in the campaign against this development. Wednesday February 12.
Many thousands of people campaigned for years to see the best areas of wild Tasmania protected in national parks, World Heritage and other conservation reserves. However, the current Liberal state government continues its efforts to open up these areas to commercial development via tourism ventures.
While the plans for a ‘helicopter’ tourism venture at Lake Malbena on the Central Plateau has been generating a lot of community opposition, a range of other, lesser known projects are also being pursued by a number of developers.
UNESCO has put the government on notice over it’s privatisation agenda: any development that impacts upon the World Heritage Area’s Outstanding Universal Values must be referred back to the Committee for review.
When I sat down last year to write the annual review, we were only at the start of the first lockdown. A year and a bit later, it all seems like a blur. While I have strong memories of being in the mountains, watching the seasons slowly cycle through, and a couple of amazing snow storms, work life – and much of 2020 – is just an out of focus memory of zoom meetings and phone calls. Its hard to recall when things start and finish. It was a year long in the living, yet it hardly exists in memory.
Into the second year of covid, the world is a different place. As Victoria experiences yet another lock down, that free summer and autumn earlier in the year seems like a lifetime ago. It’s just one week til opening weekend of the ski season and it looks like it will be a pared back event again.
Last year started with fires, then various lockdowns, with huge impacts on mountain and valley economies, especially in Victoria. A number of friends have closed their businesses down, others struggle through, hoping for a good winter. The people who usually manage to make a living around the mountain economies are, for the most part, still struggling.
But the mountains remain. My times at Mt Hotham last winter were kind of how I imagined a great mountain resort could be: people walking, skiing, boarding everywhere. Kickers built on mountain sides. Impromptu parties at The Cross or Summit. Toboggans and beers on a camp chair by the car, that endless expanse of blue ridgelines extending to the horizon.
As everyone knows, last winter was mostly a disastrous season snow-wise, so people who weren’t on a hill or able to travel didn’t miss much. Boom and bust cycles of snow made for a mediocre season (and then there was that late season slide into Avalanche Gully at Hotham, where deep snow built up on a base that had melted back mostly to grass).
As always, there was lots of politics, and that was borne out in the statistics for 2020:
Most visited pages and posts on Mountain Journal were
The ever reliable side country guide to Hotham resort. There was also a lot of interest in other backcountry ski and boarding terrain, like the Bluff to Howitt guide
The efforts to reduce wild horse numbers in the Victorian and NSW Alps. This was a big political issue, with various court cases to try and stop horse removal
The fact that the federal government refused to act on the Royal Commission investigation of the 2019/20 fires and establish a publicly owned air fleet to fight fires (here)
Stories on logging in the Alps and threats to the Alpine Ash forests and Snow Gums
Plns to allow commercial tourism in wild places like Lake Malbena in lutruwita/ Tasmania and at Mt Feathertop in Victoria
Late in the year, logging on the Dargo became a huge issue, with plans by VicForests to build a road through a section of the Alpine National Park (following a major outcry, they have now backed down from this plan, although logging continues)
Here’s to a good winter of deep snow and open resorts! Please get there when you can, enjoy some mountain goodness, and support local business.
Some photos from winter 20230 in the Hotham/ Dinner Plain area.