Chapter 3

The Tasmanian Framework

There are over 100 individual Tasmanian Acts of Parliament that relate to environmental control in some way. They include controls on everything from fluoridation of our water supplies, to wildlife protection, to management of marine areas.

This mountain of legislation can be very off-putting but, take heart, most environmental issues are dealt with under a handful of important Acts.

The following chapters of this handbook outline the most salient aspects of this bank of environmental legislation.

  • ☛ Go to Chapter 4 for a listing of the most relevant laws
  • ☛ Go to Chapter 15 to see how some federal laws also apply to Tasmania

How effective are Tasmania's environmental laws?

tas_in_block.jpg During the 1990s welcome reforms brought about a level of uniformity, rigour and fairness into Tasmania’s ramshackle environmental laws. Although they have been slowly upgraded, there are still many gaping holes.

To give an indication of their haphazard nature, you can be prohibited by law from painting a heritage building the wrong colour, but there is still no legislative constraint placed on the volume of greenhouse gases that you emit.

You can be profligately wasteful of resources, but be fined heavily for littering.

What are we doing well?

Tasmania boasts a fairly sophisticated set of integrated planning laws, with considerable scope for public participation – the Resource Management and Planning System (RMPS).

☛ Go to Chapter 4, 5 & 6 for a full description

The RMPS is an integrated suite of legislation at the core of our environmental and planning system – we cannot overstate its fundamental importance, especially where land use and development issues are concerned. Key features of this system include recognising the importance of sustainable development, guaranteeing opportunities for public participation in decision-making, and independent reviews of resource and land use decisions.

Unlike other states, Tasmania’s Director of Public Health can require any developer to include an assessment of potential health impacts in an Environmental Impact Assessment carried out in respect of a development. For project where the State government is the proponent, climate change impacts must also be considered.

Encouragingly, a proposed ban on all plastic bags is expected to be introduced by June 2013. The proposed ban will prohibit retailers from supplying customers with lightweight plastic bags. This initiative will hopefully decrease the estimated 3.9 billion plastic bags Australians use each year.

What could we do better?

Unlike some Australian jurisdictions, Tasmania still has:

No packaging deposit legislation (although the Packaging Covenant Action Plan is underway)

No specific soil conservation legislation

Limited vegetation clearance protections, particularly in bushland fringe / rural residential areas

No waste minimisation legislation (there is legislation that governs the management of waste, but as yet there is none that specifically acts to minimise it)

Minimal marine areas set aside as reserves (although there is policy such as the Tasmanian Marine Protected Areas Strategy)

Legislated sea level rise benchmarks (☛ See Chapter 7 for information about the new sea level rise allowances adopted by the government, but yet to be incorporated in legislation).

Tasmania’s legislation in relation to the protection of Aboriginal cultural heritage is outdated, but is currently subject to a long overdue review.

There are also exemptions (separate regulation) for powerful industry sectors. For example, the logging industry, mineral exploration and aquaculture industries have been specifically exempted from local council planning schemes. In turn, citizens’ rights of appeal and redress have been partially or extensively curtailed in the case of these industry sectors.

Where are we ahead of the pack?

The state can, however, boast a sophisticated set of planning laws, with considerable scope for public participation – the all important Resource Management and Planning System (RMPS). (☛ Go to Chapters 4, 5 & 6 for a full description)

The RMPS is an integrated suite of legislation. It is the hub of this state's environmental and planning system – we cannot overstate its fundamental importance, especially where land use and development issues are concerned.

A key feature of this system is that it guarantees the opportunity for public participation and review by an independent body.

Another plus - an Environmental Impact Assessment carried out in Tasmania must include a Health Impact Assessment if required by the Director of Public Health. Tasmania is the only state to have such a legislated requirement.

Lobbying for better laws

pressure2.jpgpressure2.jpgSince 1990 we have seen genuine moves to progressively upgrade Tasmania's bank of environmental legislation, and this process is still gradually happening. But more recently there have been some disturbing backward moves.

Public pressure is the key to developing sound environmental legislation. The onus is on concerned citizens, business and community groups to help lobby for and assist in the retention, development and implementation of progressive and fair environmental laws in our state.

Which government agencies regulate the environment?

Environmental management in Tasmania is managed via a confusing tangle of departments and sub-agencies.

This complexity makes it difficult to manage environmental regulation and to work out who is responsible for dealing with problems.

The main agencies

Department What it does
Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment This is the department with responsibility for general environmental management,
such as pollution, national parks and heritage issues, natural resource management and services to primary industries.
Justice Department This department oversees the independent planning and appeals system.
Infrastructure Energy & Resources This department oversees extractive industries, including mining, forestry and
energy issues as well as transport.
Health & Human Services This department is responsible for environmental health issues, including drinking
water quality.

Having no one agency with overarching statewide responsibility for environmental management is causing some confusion, overlays and duplication. For instance, some agencies (including local councils) are currently accountable for environmental laws that are handled by several departments instead of one. These inefficiencies are a problem for developers and environmental defenders alike.

☛ See below for a more comprehensive outline of the various government agencies and the environmental issues that they deal with.

Independent agencies

However, Tasmania’s administrative setup is characterised by important independent agencies that have key roles. These agencies are designed to be independent of any direct political influence.

They are particularly important to the public because they guarantee significant public input into planning & development issues and environmental dispute resolution – as you will find out throughout this handbook.


Tasmanian Planning Commission

Resource Management and Planning Appeal Tribunal

The State Ombudsman

Environment Protection Authority
An assessment agency for planning matters A publicly accessible tribunal A referral body for citizens' complaints An assessment agency for environmental matters

☛ See further below for an explanation of their roles.


Importance of local councils

Local councils play a major role in environmental management in Tasmania.

They are delegated (via legislation) to carry out a wide range of duties in relation to most environmental issues that you are likely to face, including land use issues, planning & pollution controls, heritage & habitat protection and environmental health problems. They are the first point of call for citizens and businesses when most issues arise or if developmental plans are being drawn up.

☛ Click HERE to see a list of councils, their websites and how to contact them.

Councils can also pass their own by-laws, to regulate certain activities within that specific council area.

☛ Click HERE to see by-laws

Please note: In Tasmanian legislation, councils are referred to as Planning Authorities.

How the administration is set up

Local councils

For most purposes this is your first point of contact

What councils are required to do
• They have general responsibility for local planning

• They handle development applications in the first instance

• They manage pollution control at local level
(but will refer to state departments where necessary)

• They assess and regulate low-impact (Level 1) developments

The Major Departments

Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment(DPIPWE)

EPA Division
• Provides expert environmental advice to the EPA in relation to Level 2 activities
• Sets environmental standards
• Deals with pollution ‘incidents’
• Monitors fresh water quality and water pollution
Parks & Wildlife Division
• Manages terrestrial and aquatic reserves
• Regulates flora and fauna protection
Aboriginal Heritage office
• Identifies, conserves and manages Tasmania's Aboriginal heritage assets and facilitates greater community awareness of, and interaction with, Aboriginal heritage
Heritage Tasmania
• Provides support for the Tasmanian Heritage Council

Water Resources Division
• Manages fresh water & groundwater resources and water licensing.
Food and Agriculture Division
• Manages rural lands, agricultural practices, chemicals and spraying
• Manages marine farming and wild fisheries
• Jointly manages marine reserves (with Parks & Wildlife Service)
Resource Management & Conservation Unit
• Issues permits for taking wildlife
Sea Fishing & Aquaculture
• Manages aquaculture, fisheries, the marine environment and its fish stocks
Biosecurity & Product Integrity (Including Quarantine)
• Protects against the negative impacts of pests, diseases and weeds
• Regulates introduction of genetically modified organisms
Lands Titles Office
• Manages the whole-of-government, integrated Land Information System (LIST)
Crown Land Services
• Oversees management, use and development of Crown Land
Natural Resource Management Unit
• Provides data, support and strategies to assist with Tasmania’s overall natural
resource management - in parallel with Australia-wide NRM program

Justice

• Oversees the RMPAT and the Planning Commission
• Oversees the Ombudsman and the Integrity Commission
• Coordinates Right to Information laws

Health and Human Services

Public & Environmental Health Service
• Regulates quality of food (including shellfish)
• Regulates sanitation and health standards
• Regulates quality of drinking and recreational water sources (including fluoridation)
• Involved with Health Impact Assessments

Infrastructure, Energy & Resources (DIER)

Infrastructure division
• Oversees state-owned businesses (GBOs) such as Forestry Tasmania,
Hydro Tasmania and Aurora Energy
Transport division
• State transport planning (includes protection of roadside vegetation)
Mineral Resources Tasmania
• Manages and regulates exploration, mining and quarrying
Office of Energy Planning & Conservation
• Responsible for regulation of energy sector
Forestry Division
• Oversees Forest Practices Authority and Private Forests Tasmania
• Responsible for implementation of RFA and Permanent Forest Estate Policy

The Independent Agencies

These are statutory bodies that are intended to operate without any direct political or government intervention.

Tasmanian Planning Commission
• Assesses local government Planning Schemes
• Assesses public land use issues
• Assesses Major Development Projects (‘Level 3’ developments)
• Reviews Water Management Plans
• Reviews State Policies and Planning Directives
• Prepares State-of-the-Environment reports
☛ Go to Chapters 4 and 5 for more information

Resource Management & Planning Appeal Tribunal
• Hears appeals against various resource management decisions
• Conducts enforcement proceedings about alleged or potential breaches
of environmental laws
• Can then issue ‘orders’ that protect environmental (or planning) rights and values
☛ Go to Chapter 14 to see how it operates

State Ombudsman
• Investigates public complaints about the administrative actions of state and
local government, public authorities and agencies
☛ Go to Chapter 13 to see how it operates

Supreme Court of Tasmania
• Final court of appeal for most matters. Civil and criminal jurisdiction
☛ Go to Chapter 14 to see how it operates

Tasmanian Heritage Council
• Manages historic and cultural heritage legislation, including listing of heritage sites
• Assesses development applications for heritage listed buildings and sites
☛ Go to Chapter 12 to see how it operates

Forest Practices Authority
• Develops and updates Forest Practices Code
• Regulates environmental controls in crown and private forestry,
including the clearing of threatened native vegetation

☛ Go to Chapter 8 for more information

Environment Protection Authority
• Assesses larger developments (‘level 2’ developments)
• Requires and assesses environmental improvement programs
• Carries out environmental audits
• Negotiates and enforces environmental agreements

☛ Go to Chapters 5 and 6 for more information

Director of the EPA
• Regulates ‘level 2’ developments
• Empowered to enforce pollution control laws with respect to any activity.

Other relevant agencies

Climate Change Office
• Developing and monitoring climate change policy.

Forestry Tasmania
• Regulates the commercial harvest of timber on crown land

Inland Fisheries Service
• Regulates commercial and recreational fishing in inland waters

Southern Water, Ben Lomond Water, Cradle Mountain Water
Water and sewerage corporations responsible for
• sourcing, treating and supplying drinking water, and
• removing, treating and disposing of wastewater


Where to seek information

Service Tasmania centres
• There are street front offices in most major towns
• Here you can obtain or buy reports, ask for information and ask questions
about who to contact about your concerns.

Contacts & Useful Resources

Contacts

  • EPA Division, DPIPWE:
    134 Macquarie Street, Hobart GPO Box 44A Hobart 7001 Ph: 6233 6518
    1 Civic Square Launceston 7250 Ph: 6336 2236
    Ph: 1300 135 513 (statewide) Fax: 03 6233 3800

Email: EnvironmentEnquiries@environment.tas.gov.au (The department has a comprehensive library in Hobart that is accessible to the public.)

  • Primary Industries & Water Divisions:
    1 Franklin Wharf, Hobart, GPO Box 44, Hobart 7001, Ph: 1300 368 550 (statewide)
  • Resource Management and Planning Appeal Tribunal:
    TGIO Building, 144-148 Macquarie Street, Hobart 7000 Ph: 6233 6464 Fax: 6224 0825.
  • Tasmanian Planning Commission:
    TGIO building, 144-148 Macquarie Street, Hobart 7000 Ph: 6233 2795 Fax: 6233 5400
    Email: enquiry@planning.tas.gov.au
  • Justice Department
    110 Collins Street, Hobart Ph: 1300 135 513 (statewide)
    Fax : 6233 2332 Email: records@justice.tas.gov.au
  • Tasmanian Ombudsman:
    99 Bathurst Street, Hobart 7000 Ph: 6233 9200
    Fax: 6233 8966.
    Statewide phone 1300 766 725 Email: ombudsman@ombudsman.tas.gov.au

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