Media Releases - 17 November 2020

Sussan Ley recognises luxury tourism proposal would degrade wilderness quality at Lake Malbena

Lake Malbena in Walls of Jerusalem National Park.
  • Minister Ley released ‘Statement of Reasons’ explaining why she made Wild Drake’s plans to privatise & develop Lake Malbena a controlled action under EPBC Act
  • Minister concerned at loss of “high quality” wilderness across 700ha area, plus reduced wilderness quality across 4,200ha area
  • Helicopters would “create noise and visual disturbance” & “potentially significantly impact” wedge-tailed eagles
  • Wild Drake proposal would have “significant impact” on both World Heritage values and  National Heritage values  

The Wilderness Society Tasmania has welcomed the release of Commonwealth Environment Minister Sussan Ley’s ‘Statement of Reasons’ explaining why she determined Wild Drake’s proposed helicopter-accessed luxury accommodation to be a “controlled action”, requiring a more thorough assessment under the Commonwealth environmental law, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). 

“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,” said Tom Allen for the Wilderness Society Tasmania. 

“Minister Ley’s concerns aren’t just shared by the Wilderness Society but by the clear majority of Tasmanians, who will surely welcome Ms Ley’s acknowledgement of the significant impacts of this proposal.” 

In July 2018, when the first round of public submissions opened for comment on the proposal under the EPBC Act, 99% of the 886 submissions opposed the proposal. In 2019, of the 1,346 submissions received by Central Highlands Council for its planning permit consideration, all but three opposed the proposal. Then this year, over 2,300 people signed a petition asking Sussan Ley to stand up for wilderness values when she considers the Wild Drake proposal. 

“Big Tourism in Tasmania is in the contradictory position of both recognising that, above all else, it’s wilderness that is the top trigger1 that inspires tourists to visit the island, while championing a proposal that would degrade wilderness quality itself.

“It’s not possible for this helicopter-tourism proposal to proceed without it degrading wilderness and World Heritage values. Tourism that protects, respects, even restores, natural values like wilderness is what Tasmania should be a world-leader in, not privatising national parks,” said Mr Allen. 

Minister Ley was required to remake the decision on whether the Lake Malbena proposal required assessment under the EPBC Act, after TWS successfully challenged an earlier decision in the Federal Court last year. TWS was represented by the Environmental Defenders Office in that proceeding.

“The Minister’s reasons confirm that TWS was justified in challenging the original decision on the Lake Malbena proposal to the Federal Court, and reaffirms how important it is that the community continues to have the right to undertake such legal challenges.

“Despite the overwhelming evidence about the significant impacts of the proposal on the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, which are now acknowledged by Minister Ley,  the Tasmanian Government has backed the Lake Malbena proposal all the way. 

“We are concerned that the Commonwealth Government is currently proposing to delegate its approvals and assessment functions under the EPBC Act to the states. This case provides a clear demonstration of why Tasmania cannot be trusted to properly assess and regulate developments within our precious World Heritage areas,” Mr Allen said. 

For further comment contact Tom Allen on 0434 614 323

P3, Submission to the Tasmanian Government consultation process into Tourism Master Plan for the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA), Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania, July 2019