Mercury (Hobart)

Malbena permit farce

Parks boss instructed staff prior to applicatio­n

- DAVID KILLICK Political Editor

THE Director of the Parks and Wildlife Service told staff to approve a permit allowing a private developer to drop a rowboat into a remote wilderness lake by helicopter, before the developer had submitted a formal request, documents show.

Parks boss Jason Jacobi told staff to give developer Daniel Hackett an Authority to Land before department officers issuing the permit knew what the boat was for or whether its use conformed with the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area management plan. Emails obtained by the Mercury under Right to Informatio­n laws reveal the authority was issued within 24 hours of the request being made.

Mr Hackett’s company Wild Drake has been granted an exclusive $4000-a-year lease over Halls Island in Lake Malbena, inside the Walls of Jerusalem National Park, under the government’s controvers­ial Expression­s of Interest process. His plan to build a helicopter-serviced camp on the island has run into opposition from conservati­on groups and fly fishers. Mr Hackett informally flagged his intention to deliver a boat to Lake Malbena in April 2018, but did not submit a formal applicatio­n for a permit to land a helicopter there.

The emails reveal senior Parks and Wildlife Service manager Kathryn Clark wrote to a subordinat­e at 10.07am on May 2 last year, saying “(Parks chief) Jason (Jacobi) called this morning and would like you to issue [redacted] with an authority to land the boat for the purposes of survey work”.

The email noted the boat was to be used to help Mr Hackett prepare his appeal against the refusal of the developmen­t, and told the recipient to get details from Mr Hackett.

At 2pm that day, a Parks staffer wrote to Mr Hackett saying in part: “The Deputy Secretary has determined that we will provide you with an Aircraft Landing Authority.”

He asked Mr Hackett to explain why the boat was needed and whether it had a motor.

Mr Hackett formally made the request for a permit at 3.27pm that day, Parks staff did the paperwork and it was approved the next morning.

In November last year, the Mercury inquired about the boat and was told it was for access to the island.

“Consistent with the historical use of the island by the Hall family, the PWS have approved for the lease holders to keep a small row boat at the lake in order to enable access to and from Halls Island,” a spokeswoma­n said. But the emails reveal Mr Hackett’s request said the boat was to be used for environmen­tal surveys to help his legal appeals.

Greens leader Cassy O’Connor said the permit process showed how “cozy” Parks was with developers. “I’m old enough to remember when the Parks and Wildlife Service was all — and only — about the protection of natural and cultural values in our amazing protected areas,” she said.

“Sadly, the Expression­s of Interest process has damaged the integrity of Parks, both in fact and in the public eye.”

Tom Allen from the Wilderness Society said the decision showed contempt for proper process.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia