Media Releases - 29 January 2020

World Heritage wilderness sold cheap at ‘mates’ rates’

  • Govt forced to release lease over Halls Island and Halls Hut by Ombudsman under Right to Information
  • Annual rent for 10-hectare World Heritage Halls Island on Lake Malbena just $4000
  • Lease signed before assessments - Development Application, Reserve Activity Assessment & EPBC Act referral assessment - completed 

New RTI documents confirm Lake Malbena ‘process’ is selling off World Heritage wilderness cheap at ‘mates’ rates’.

The Government was today required by the Ombudsman to release the lease it gave Wild Drake over Halls Island and Halls Hut. The Halls Island lease confirms just how cheaply the Government values World Heritage wilderness land - $4000 for 10 hectares!

The pristine wilderness around Lake Malbena. Image: Rob Blakers

“It’s not surprising that the Government refused to release the lease and licence for two years and has had to be forced to by the Ombudsman because these documents are yet another clanging indictment on the already-discredited tourism Expression of Interest ‘process’ and the unpopular Lake Malbena proposal,” said Tom Allen for the Wilderness Society Tasmania.

“Until today, we did not know how much Wild Drake was paying to have the exclusive right to exploit the World Heritage Halls Island. Now we know that it’s $4000 a year once the development is completed, and just $1000 a year in the meantime, with a measly licence fee of $1 per annum 'if demanded'.

“A lot of people would like to pay just $4000 dollars a year for 10 hectares of pristine World Heritage land, but most don’t get that opportunity - unless you’re in the privileged position of qualifying for Government’s ‘mates' rates’. The Government must explain how it managed to calculate such a low annual rent when a single Wild Drake customer would pay $4500 for a three-night stay. How does the Government make these decisions? This rent wouldn’t even cover the costs of Parks and Wildlife helicoptering in once a year to inspect the development.

“Worse still, these documents show that the main lease was signed on January 2018, well before the three main assessment and approval processes - the Council’s Development Application, the State Government’s Reserve Activity Assessment (RAA) and the Federal Government’s decision about whether approval is required under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act - were finished. The Federal EPBC Act decision still hasn’t been made, almost two years after the lease and licence were issued, because the Federal Court sent it back to the Minister to be made again under the EPBC Act after our successful legal challenge.

“This directly contradicts Peter Gutwein’s claim in October, when he was still Parks Minister, that tourism EOI proposals do not receive lease and licence agreements 'after the fact'. These documents prove they do and that Mr Gutwein either received incorrect advice or mislead the public.

“The new Premier can still change the settings of the tourism EOI process to recover some social licence by it becoming transparent, collaborating with the public and encouraging sustainable tourism ventures in local communities instead of privatising World Heritage wilderness at the exclusion of everyone else. Such reforms aren’t extreme or ideological as has been claimed but are, in reality, rational, constructive and sorely needed,” said Mr Allen. 

For further comment: Tom Allen, 0434 614 323