Momentous budget and planning decisions must be based on current environmental data

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Leading environment and policy groups are calling on the Tasmanian Government to make the decade-long-delayed State of the Environment Report public before several key financial and planning decisions are made by the government and the parliament later this year.

The groups say the 2024 State of the Environment Report must be made public before the Government settles its Budget in September and before parliament debates changes that could see the logging of 39,000 additional hectares of native forest, and the over-development of some of the state’s most beautiful coastal beauty spots.

On Wednesday, Tasmanian Planning Minister Felix Ellis allowed a further delay for the Tasmanian Planning Commission to deliver the report, pushing the due date out to August 31.

Consequently, the groups are now concerned the Minister may not table the SOE Report before the parliament rises for the year on November 15, which would mean the report may not be made public until the first sitting week of 2025, which isn’t until next March.

“This delay is yet another example of environmental neglect by the state government, which is threatening the Tasmanian way of life,” said Eloise Carr, the Australia Institute’s Tasmanian Director.

“Chronic underfunding has delayed the report for a decade, and it continues to be delayed for this reason. The funding the Tasmanian Planning Commission received for this report was about one-third of the money it cost to produce the report in 2009.

“The government now needs to commit appropriate funding to implement the report’s recommended actions in this year’s Budget and the Minister should also commit to releasing the report as soon as it is received.

“The State of Environment Report should provide a critical health check of Tasmania’s most precious natural resources and how well they are being managed. Tasmanians have been left without such reports since 2009.

“Given the already extensive delays in the production of this report, we call on Planning Minister Felix Ellis to commit to tabling the report in parliament on the first available sitting day after the report is finalised – September 10,” said Ms Carr.

The SOE reporting delay may mean the Tasmanian public will not see the report until next year, well after several key decisions are made or debated, including:

  • The Tasmanian Budget (September 12);
  • Draft orders to allow logging of an additional 39,000 hectares of native forest (mid-July);
  • Retrospective changes to the State Coastal Policy to allow more coastal development.

It would also not be available to inform questioning of government ministers and senior bureaucrats at parliamentary Estimates Hearings from September 23 to 26.

“The government has been flying blind for over a decade, changing planning and environmental laws without first knowing the condition of the state’s environment and then failing to review the environmental impacts of those changes,” said Claire Bookless, Environmental Defenders Office Managing Lawyer.

“Without publication of the report, Tasmanians will continue to be kept in the dark about the condition of the environment they rely on, and what management actions need to be taken to arrest and reverse any negative trends.

“We need the State of the Environment Report to provide the best available science so that policy and legislative decisions currently under consideration can be well informed, and so that responsible decisions are made to ensure a sustainable future for all.”

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