When the national report on the state of the environment was published a fortnight ago – an important report that told “a story of crisis and decline”, according to Federal Minister Tanya Plibersek – it was delayed by around six months.
- The Tasmanian State of the Environment report is supposed to be published every five years, but none have been published since 2009
- The Australia Institute Tasmania said the RTI documents “reveal that no significant progress has been made towards preparing a state of the environment report.”
- Planning Minister Michael Ferguson said the government was ‘undertaking a review of reporting requirements’
Specifically for Tasmania, the report highlighted the pressures of climate change, including abrupt shifts in ecological systems, affecting things like giant kelp forests, agriculture and the increasing frequency of extreme weather events, and has also discussed the human impact on the endangered Tasmanian Devil. .
But its delayed publication after it was handed over to the Morrison government in December last year has nothing to do with Tasmania’s state of the environment report, which was last seen 13 years ago. – missing its last two reports, in 2014 and 2019.
And this despite the legislation (State Policies and Projects Act 1993) stipulating that the Tasmanian Planning Commission must produce a report every five years.
The law stipulates that the report must cover the state of the environment, trends and changes in the environment, the achievement of resource management objectives and recommendations for future environmental management.
The Minister of Planning should then present it to parliament within a short period of 15 days.
So where is he?
We took a deep dive to try to answer that question.
The most recent report was from 2009, which stated that the Tasmanian Planning Commission’s top priority over the next five years was “to improve the standard of land use planning and ensure that development objectives of Tasmania be pursued as far as possible”.
“This SOE report is a first step in facilitating that change without losing our environmental performance baseline data and reporting framework,” he said.
“This will be achieved through a number of mechanisms including the effective and efficient discharge of its statutory roles and functions pursuant to Section 29 of the State Policies and Plans Act 1993 and the of 1997 on the Tasmanian Planning Commission.”
So basically: future reports were seen as important. However, since then it has been radio silence.
RTI documents reveal ‘no meaningful progress has been made’
The Australia Institute Tasmania has looked into the matter and submitted a Right to Know (RTI) request.
Institute director Eloise Carr said the RTI documents showed “a complete disregard for the law by the Tasmanian Planning Commission and a lack of government oversight”.
“They reveal that no material progress has been made towards the preparation of a state of the environment report and that the Planning Commission as the statutory authority appears to have taken the decision not to comply to the law, which requires it to produce these reports every five years,” she said.
“The Minister of Planning, who is responsible for receiving state of the environment reports, has not intervened. The Ministry of Justice, who is responsible for administering the Tasmanian Planning Commission, has not did not intervene.
“The Minister of the Environment appears to have been relieved of his environmental responsibilities.”
Planning Commission Executive Commissioner John Ramsay said in an email released as part of the RTI Papers that the reasons for the failure to produce a report “are somewhat elusive”.
“Whatever the justification, when the Commission initiated an SoE action a few years ago (sic), the result … was a recommendation to the Minister that the Commission should no longer be responsible for the SoE,” he said. he writes.
“Soon after, the Commission’s review was undertaken, and it also recommended that the SoE should not be part of the Commission’s responsibilities. This recommendation and the rest of the recommendations in the review did not, to my knowledge, been resolved.”
Ms Carr said the national report showed the impacts of climate change and underlined its importance.
“We know there is a global warming hotspot off the east coast of Tasmania, we know we have had several high impact fire seasons since the last SoE report, we know industries are increasing their size and their impacts,” she said.
“And without accurate data, how can we make decisions about how we manage environmental impacts? It’s like flying blind.”
Government ‘currently reviewing reporting requirements’
The State of the Environment Report website offers little information.
He says: “Over the past few years, the Commission has conducted internal reviews of compliance with the SoE requirement, identifying the need for a policy review of the SoE legislation. In 2019, the Commission formally recommended that a such review be undertaken.”
But there are no details about the gaping hole where the reports should have been published in 2014 and 2019. The website says the review started in late 2019, but no further updates were provided.
Planning Minister Michael Ferguson didn’t say much about it.
“The State of the Environment of Tasmania sits on the Tasmanian Planning Commission, but given its statutory roles and responsibilities it is widely recognized as not being the most appropriate authority for this work,” said he said in a written statement.
“The government is currently undertaking a review of the reporting requirements, reporting format and most appropriate authority for the work and will include extensive public consultation.
“I understand that a number of Tasmanian government agencies have contributed to the Commonwealth State of the Environment Report.”
Planning Commission ‘effectively bound by government failure’: Greens
Tasmanian Greens spokeswoman Rosalie Woodruff blamed the lack of reporting on successive Liberal governments, in power since 2014.
‘The Tasmanian Planning Commission is guilty of failing to do the SoE assessment – but it was effectively bound by the failure of the Liberals to provide the necessary information or fund this demanding and important work,’ she said .
“The agencies’ multiple failures to report for 13 years are a deliberate tactic to hide evidence of the impact of Liberal policies on the health of Tasmania’s environment.
“They would be facing proof that they are trashing the place.”