News - 14 November 2018

Date set for Lake Malbena Federal Court challenge

Yesterday, the Federal Court set the hearing date for the Wilderness Society's legal challenge of the Morrison Government's decision to wave through the proposed Lake Malbena luxury tourist development. The Federal Court will hear the matter on 26 March 2019 in Melbourne.

“We’re pleased that we now have the date in March next year to work towards. It now feels like our court case is properly under way,” said Wilderness Society Tasmania’s Campaign Manager, Vica Bayley.

In August 2018, under the Federal environment laws which cover World Heritage properties, a delegate of the Minister for the Environment, Melissa Price MP, determined that the Lake Malbena helicopter tourism proposal would not significantly impact the values of the World Heritage Area and thus not require detailed assessment or approval under those laws.

This decision was made against the weight of over 900 public submissions that raised concerns about the proposal's impact on the wilderness and other values of the World Heritage Area. This includes the submission from the government's own expert advisory body, the National Parks and Wildlife Advisory Council, which recommended against the proposal progressing.

The Wilderness Society’s case will look at whether the delegate made a legal error in 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.

“Given the volume and nature of the material that was provided to the Minister’s delegate as part of the Lake Malbena referral, there is a real question over whether this threshold decision—to not require a detailed and formal assessment of this development under Federal environment law—is correct,” said Vica Bayley, spokesperson for the Wilderness Society.

The proposed Lake Malbena development, and actions taken to facilitate it, have raised the concern of advisors to UNESCO, expert government advisors, environmentalists, Aboriginal representatives and the users of the area, including fly fishers and bushwalkers.