Key report quiet
Tasmania’s State of the Environment report is years overdue.
The national State of the Environment report was released a fortnight ago after having been delayed by around six months.
But this delay pales in comparison to Tasmania’s state-level equivalent.
Tasmania’s State Policies and Projects Act 1993 states that the Tasmanian Planning Commission must produce a State of the Environment report every five years, but the last two scheduled reports in 2014 and 2019 were not released.
That means there has been no Tasmanian State of the Environment report for the last 13 years.
The Act requires a report covering the condition of the environment, trends and changes in the environment, the achievement of resource management objectives, and recommendations for future environmental management, which is to be presented to parliament within 15 days of its completion.
The most recent report was in 2009, and laid out the Tasmanian Planning Commission's top priority over the next five years to “improve the standard of land use planning and to ensure that Tasmania's sustainable development objectives are furthered as far as possible”.
“This SOE Report is a first step to facilitate that change without losing our baseline environmental performance data and reporting framework,” it said.
“This will be achieved through a number of mechanisms including performing its statutory roles and functions effectively and efficiently in accordance with section 29 of the State Policies and Projects Act 1993 and the Tasmanian Planning Commission Act 1997.”
The Australia Institute Tasmania has submitted a Right to Information (RTI) request to find out why subsequent reports have not emerged.
Institute director Eloise Carr says there has been a “complete disregard for the law by the Tasmanian Planning Commission and a lack of oversight by the government”.
“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 statutory authority appears to have made a decision not to comply with the law, which requires it to produce these reports every five years,” she said.
“The Minister for Planning, who is responsible for receiving the State of the Environment Reports, has not intervened. The Department of Justice, which has responsibility for administering the Tasmanian Planning Commission has not intervened.
“The Environment Minister appears to have been absolved from his responsibilities to the environment.”
Planning Commission executive commissioner John Ramsay said in an email released under RTI that the reasons for the lack of a report “are somewhat elusive”.
“Whatever the rationale, when the Commission initiated some action of the SoE a couple of year [sic] back, the outcome ... was a recommendation to the Minister that the Commission no longer be responsible for SoE,” he wrote.
“Shortly after that, the review of the Commission was undertaken, and it also recommended that SoE not be part of the Commission responsibilities. That recommendation and the rest of the review recommendations have not to my knowledge been resolved.”
Planning Minister Michael Ferguson - whose job it is to release the reports when they are completed - says the government is reviewing the matter.
“The Tasmanian State of the Environment sits with the Tasmanian Planning Commission, but given its statutory roles and responsibilities, it is widely recognised as not the most appropriate authority for this work,” he said in a statement.
“The government is currently undertaking a review of the reporting requirements, the format of the report and the most suitable authority for the work and will include extensive public consultation.
“I understand that a number of Tasmanian government agencies contributed to the Commonwealth State of Environment report.”