Tasmanian Government agrees to environmental health check after legal pressure

Tasmanians will finally learn how the health of their environment is faring after the state government agreed to direct the Tasmanian Planning Commission to produce a State of the Environment (SOE) Report by June 2024.  

Tasmania’s environment is nationally and internationally renowned, and is the reason tourism, agriculture and fishing businesses are thriving. However, the recent national State of the Environment report painted a dire picture of decimated kelp forests, fire seasons, freshwater pollution and habitat destruction but Tasmanians are mostly in the dark at the local level. 

It has been thirteen years since the last Tasmanian SOE report was produced. The State Policies and Projects Act 1993 requires the Tasmanian Planning Commission to publish a State of the Environment report once every 5 years, but there has been no report since 2009. 

The EDO, on behalf of the Australia Institute Tasmania, wrote to the Minister for Planning in August, pointing out the breach in the law and the minister’s power to address it. 

This week, the minister responded by recognising the importance of SOE Reports, that the State of the Environment Report must be produced by an independent body at arms-length from Government, and that the pre-eminent independent body is the Commission 

“We welcome the Government’s announcement that State of the Environment Reports are back on the agenda. The Government has been flying blind on the health of most of Tasmania’s ecosystems since 2009. We urgently need an updated Report delivered well before the next state election,” said Eloise Carr, Director the Australia Institute Tasmania. 

“The Australia Institute and the Environmental Defenders Office wrote to the Minister pointing out that the Planning Commission has been in breach of the law since 2014. Although the report will be a decade late, this is a win for the law, and a win for the environment,” said Ms Carr. 

“We also commend the Government for recognising that these reports need to be produced by an independent body at arms-length from Government, and that the pre-eminent independent body is the Commission. 

“The next State of the Environment Report must provide a comprehensive evidence base to inform strategic priorities and land use planning, including in regard to environmental management and recommendations,” said Eloise Carr, Director the Australia Institute Tasmania. 

“We are pleased, that after being urged to do so, the Minister is exercising his power to direct the Planning Commission to comply with its legal duties and produce a State of the Environment Report,” said EDO Managing Lawyer Claire Bookless. 

“Given the climate and extinction crises we face, it is simply not good enough that Tasmanians have been waiting for over a decade for an environmental health check. 

“Tasmanians have a right to know how our resource and planning laws are performing, especially considering all the sweeping changes that have been made to those laws in the past eight years. 

“It is now vital that the Planning Commission is appropriately resourced to produce the next State of Environment report, and future reports,” said Ms Bookless. 

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