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Interview with Roisin McCann
ABC Northern Tasmania Drive
11 December 2009
McCANN: And the other top news at 10 past five, good afternoon to you, is the news that the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Peter Garrett has included the Tarkine in the National Heritage List. As you, if you were listening to Tim this morning, you would have heard the news at about half past 10. And Mr Garrett did this using emergency provisions under National Environment Law; and that was after a nomination from the Tarkine National Coalition.
You might remember a few months ago, oh no, itwouldn't have been a few months ago, a few weeks ago I spoke to them about the nomination and what they were hoping to achieve with that.
Well Peter Garrett is with me this afternoon to talk about the decision. Good afternoon Minister.
GARRETT: Hi Roisin.
McCANN: Why did you decide to or what was it that convinced you to go down this unusual or rarely used path?
GARRETT: I took advice from my department on the call for emergency listing and the advice was clear that if I believed the area may have one or more National Heritage values and that they're likely to have some threat of significant impact if the road should proceed, then it was open to me to consider an emergency listing.
The Tarkine had already been nominated for inclusion in the National Heritage List and it was in the work plan of the Heritage Council but in making my decision at a subsequent point should the road be referred to me for consideration under the national environment legislation, I believed it was absolutely appropriate that the Tarkine's National Heritage values should be one of the matters that I could consider if that came about and the way to enable that to happen was to use the emergency provisions to put it on the list.
McCANN: Okay, so to clarify, that means that you are assessing the proposed road into the Tarkine under the EPBC Act as well as looking at the heritage values under national environment law - is that the way it works?
GARRETT: The way it works is that where there is a formal referral through to me from the Tasmanian Government on the road, that assessing that proposal under the EPBC Act means that I will also be able to include an additional matter under the Act - that being whether or not there are National Heritage values under the Act as identified in the emergency listing.
So it really means that those particular values can be considered as part of any referral that might come through.
McCANN: So away from the more general definition of heritage values, what now might you be including in your assessment that previously wasn't being looked at?
GARRETT: What that would mean is that the heritage values that might apply to the Tarkine -i.e. values say for example of high quality wilderness, of the rare lichens, of the magnesite karst systems, of the fossil deposits, of any undisturbed catchments and ecosystems on a scale that's present in the Tarkine may be considered by me in any matter that comes before me in relation to proposals about the Tarkine.
McCANN: I mean, you are saying may be considered, do you needto consider them on the basis of submissions from other people or on what your department goes out and finds out about what is now quite a wide area, because you have accepted the boundary as laid out by the Tarkine National Coalition?
GARRETT: Yeah, there's a difference between the boundary that's laid out by the coalition and what would be assessed under any proposal under the EPBC Act, Roisin, because I would take advice on the proposal. In this case it's a proposed road; it goes through certain areas in relation to the proposal itself in the Tarkine.
And so I would look at the Natural Heritage values that would be identified there and whether or not there was likely to be an impact.
The actual assessment itself of the National Heritage Council will come back to me with a proposal for boundaries to be considered if in fact they give me a final advice about the Tarkine going on the National Heritage List.
In the past, those boundaries which have been brought forward by the National Heritage Council have generally been amended boundaries, sometimes reduced in size from that which is proposed. That will be up to the council to provide me with a recommendation, but of course I will consider it further on down the track.
McCANN: And how might that affect of how might the announcement today affect forestry and mining operations in the area currently?
GARRETT: Well there should be no effect on forestry operations in the area generally. I mean we've got for example development in the Great Barrier Reef, heritage listed areas of tourism industries and the like, and it is the case that the issues in relation to forest activities in the Tarkine are not affected by my decision to include the Tarkine in the National Heritage List.
That's because the National Heritage listing does allow for sustainable economic development and it also is because the forest activities that are undertaken there happen through the RFA and the RFA is the existing framework for sustainable forest management in the Tarkine.
So my expectation and certainly the understanding is that RFA forest operations are not affected by the decision that I've made today.
McCANN: When did you advise the Tasmanian Government of the decision?
GARRETT: Prior to the press release and the formal announcement going out this morning.
McCANN: And who was that advice to?
GARRETT: I think phone calls were put through to the Premier's office and Minister Llewellyn's office.
McCANN: Okay, and what was the State Government's reponse?
GARRETT: I haven't received any formal response from the State Government as yet around this listing.
McCANN: And so this project in Tasmania has been under the responsibility of the Infrastructure Minister, Graeme Sturges -so is David Llewellyn being advised because he's looking after forestry?
GARRETT: Well we've had correspondence between the Commonwealth and Tasmania with Mr Llewellyn in relation to both the RFAs and the Tarkine generally, and so it was appropriate to make that communication to him. But obviously we will be communicating officially and formally to all relevant ministers as a consequence of today's decision.
McCANN: And prior to today's decision, Peter Garrett, you said you wanted more information or your department wants more information from the State Government in relation to the Tasmanian Devil, can we now read into you decision today that you are indicating a wider concern about the road's impact on the Tarkine as a whole?
GARRETT: I think the way in which this decision should be read is it just provides additional relevant information for me to be able to consider in relation to any preferred proposal that comes through on the road, Roisin, because the proposal for the Tarkine to be nominated for inclusion in the National Heritage List was already afoot. What I have done is ensure that I can actually consider that now as opposed to that being something that's coming down the track.
I think it gives added public confidence to any decision-making that I might undertake in relation to the proposed road. There will be other matters of National Environment significance, including potential impacts of the Devil that naturally I would be considering when a formal referral reaches me.
My approach in all of these matters is to make sure that I've got all of the relevant information in front of me that I think I need. If I need additional material from scientists, from my department, from proponents -in this case the Tasmanian Government -then I make sure that I've got that and until such time that I've got all that relevantinformation I don't make a decision.
McCANN: How much lobbying are you getting from all stakeholders at this stage?
GARRETT: Look there is a public campaign out there in relation to the Tarkine. There has been for some time. There are different views about the road and other matters, but again I guess what I really want to emphasise here is that we always try and make sure that we provide a really high degree of thoroughness in our consideration of these issues.
This action that I've taken does acknowledge that the Tarkine has the potential for National Heritage values because of its high environmental values that are already apparent there. But it is the case that the assessment ultimately by the Heritage Council will allow for public consultation, will allow for owners, occupiers and other stakeholders to put their views.
I want to be in a situation if I do need to make a decision about the proposed road under the EPBC Act, to be looking at all of the relevant matters under the Act that apply, and I believe that the emergency listing means that I can do that; but in the meantime it's important to note that it's always the contemplation under National Heritage Listing that sustainable economic development can continue.
There could be new industries liketourism and that RFA forest operations aren't specifically affected by a decision to include the Tarkine on the National Heritage List.
McCANN: There's also a degree of conjecture that there are significant mining streams that are still yet to be exploredin that area. Would that also be allowed?
GARRETT: Well look I don't know about that conjecture and again I will take the advice that comes to me from the department, advice that's provided by the proponent.
If there's an assessment process which we do undertake in relation to the road, then we'll consider all of the issues that come in front of us, but it's not intended that this listing today has any impact on existing or continuing use -and that includes mining.
What it does mean is that when it comes to making any decision -and any environment minister nationally I think ought to say the same thing -they want to be in full possession of all the relevant information and that includes a consideration of issues such as National Heritage values.
McCANN: And finally Peter Garrett, looking at all of the relevant matters, will you yourself come to the Tarkine or have you been to the Tarkine previously?
GARRETT: I haven't been into the Tarkine previously, I've been invited down. I've been on the fringes of the Tarkine some period of time ago. I will give some thought as to whether I actually need to come down and visit that area in particular.
Again, we haven't got a formal referral through to me in relation to that proposed road. If at such time if thatcomes through -and my expectation is that it will -and if I think that there's a need for me to visit then I'll do that too.
McCANN: And another final then, so the formal referral is dependent on the extra information that you were talking about, is that right?
GARRETT: That's correct.
McCANN: Okay. Peter Garrett, thank you for your time and without being at all presumptuous, is it hayfever or are you struggling with a head cold at the moment?
GARRETT: Yeah, look, Roisin, you are not being presumptuous. Someone gave me one of these little bits of summer flu a week or two ago and I haven't quite shaken it yet. I guess I'll finally get around to that on Christmas Eve.
McCANN: Well it's obviously going all around Australia because there has been some shockers down here in Tasmania. So thank you very much for talking to me for 12 minutes with a head cold, very bad -very -awful thing for me to make you do. Thank you for your time this afternoon.
GARRETT: No worries, Roisin, thank you.
McCANN: The Minister forthe Environment Heritage and the Arts Peter Garrett talking to me this afternoon about the Tarkine being included in the National Heritage List.