Conserve & Manage Why can’t wilderness just be sacred… LAKE MALBENA!

Viewing 15 posts - 241 through 255 (of 488 total)
  • Author
  • #618319


    Yes, front page of The Mercury again today. Changing the zoning from ‘Wilderness’ to ‘Self Reliant Recreation’ (without any public consultation) to accommodate the Halls Island helicopter/lodge development application has always been the most contentious aspect of the proposal. It means anything is possible, anywhere, and management plans, even in the WHA, count for nothing.


    Greg French

    Not only was the zoning changed from Wilderness to Self-Reliant Recreation Zone, but the provisions and regulations pertaining to the zone were changed too. In the community endorsed-management plan, Self-Reliant meant just that. In the 2016 plan, ‘Self-Reliant’ suddenly meant travelling by helicopter to a fully-serviced luxury lodge. And on top of all this, we were subsequently dispossessed of a publicly owned island within a WHA national park (when it was unilaterally handed to RiverFly with no parliamentary debate or public consultation whatsoever). It really sticks in the craw when the state government and proponent keep saying that due process has been followed, and that UNESCO supports what has happened. Neither is true. Luckily, though, a bunch of clever investigative journalists are really on to it now. The ramifications for our park system are finally being understood, and the government and the developer are running out of places to hide. There are plenty more big-reveals in the pipeline too – all in time for a federal election. Stay tuned.



    Very disturbing article on page 5 of today’s Mercury suggests that the Central Highlands Council “contract planner Jacqui Tyson has recommended conditional approval of Wild Drake’s proposed helicopter-accessed standing camp because it substantially complied with the area’s planning scheme”.

    The article also mentions that the planning scheme was, of course, amended by the State Government in 2016 to allow for this project. It goes on to say that 1,346 submissions and only 2 of those were in support of the proposal.



    This whole sorry saga completely sickens me, a bloke I once looked up to (Dan) dragged down in the gutter with and by the sheer greed and contempt for the people of this state (and nation) of an obviously avaricious developer and government! Said it before, I’m starting to feel ashamed of being an Aussie, and glad I’m coming close to the end of the queue! I actually believed once that the word of the people meant something, these bastards just plain ignored us!



    Have faith, 1346 against versus 2 for is a formidable statistic that only a fool or somebody totally bent would ignore.


    Greg French

    The planner has had a maximum of 4 days since the close of submissions to consider the Malbena DA. Does anyone seriously believe that 1346 submissions (1344 against the proposal) can even be read in that time, let alone considered? The planner has stated that most of the submissions were outside the ‘remit’ of the DA process, but I can tell you categorically that many referred specifically to shortcomings in the DA itself. None of these shortcomings has been acknowledged.

    To put the overwhelming nature of response to the Malbena DA in context, it has been widely reported that the Royal Commission into banking received just 10,000 responses across all of Australia. I’ve spent a lot of time in wilderness management, and as far as I can tell the Malbena response is unprecedented for an ‘insignificant development’ in a ‘rarely visited’ corner of wilderness. This is because everyone knows that it is really the beginning of the end of our national park system. The precedents mean that the minister alone is now free to rezone and privatise whatever part of the WHA he likes without consultation with anyone at all.

    The bulk of the CHC decision says that the DA has been approved because it was already approved in the PWS’s RAA process. That was also the rationale in the EPBC process. It’s so circular as to be comical. Why ask for new submissions at all? Especially if you are not going to table the main objections and publically address them? The council has a legal (not just moral) obligation to consider all submissions, but apparently due process is an old fashioned concept.

    This, then, is how democracy is destroyed in the era of Trump. The state government and the proponent are complicit and need to be held to account.

    The battle is far from over, however. The council has to vote, and we only have to win over one or two votes to sway things in the favour of due process. I urge everyone to phone all the councillors individually – this really can make a difference! (All the councillors’ phone numbers are on the Central Highlands Council website.)

    Remember too that the special meeting of council which decides the fate of the DA will be held at Bothwell on Tuesday 26 February (next week). It’s a public meeting and respondents to the DA have been invited to talk (under strict conditions). It needs to be treated as a rally – be there. Again numbers will count, both to influence wavering councillors and also to impress upon state and federal politicians that this issue matters. (There is a federal election looming, and if the Liberals win it’s open slather for development right across the Western Lakes.)

    If the council approves the DA, there is a right of appeal. This is the form explaining the process:

    The appeal will cost money – a nominal application fee plus representation (lawyer) costs. But if one person lodges an appeal, others can add their voices to it. There are lots of grounds for appeal, and we would probably win.

    I simply don’t have the means to pay for an appeal myself, so I’m imploring someone else to put their hand up. Any takers? Maybe crowd funding is an option?



    The planner will absolutely have to consider all comments. The councillors will receive some sort of written advice or assessment before the planning meeting. You should be asking to see that. There is no good reason that is should be kept in confidence. However, be aware that they are only going to deal with comments relevant to their planning scheme. Local government (and the EPBC process for that matter) has no jurisdiction to intervene in areas covered by the state approvals.


    Greg French

    The planner’s advice has already been given, and there’s no evidence that any submissions were taken seriously, or even properly read. A summary of the planner’s advice was given in today’s Mercury, and I was told that the full text had been posted on the CHC website, though I’m yet to find it. Assuming that the council doesn’t vote in our favour, an appeal is going to be paramount.



    I found it:
    The replies to issues raised in submissions is section 7.


    Greg French

    Well done MJL for finding the link!
    The funny thing is, after all the changes touted by the proponent in the DA, and conditions placed by the planner, the development is now substantially different from the one that was approved in the RAA. That should mean that it has to go back to through the RAA process, but in this brave new anarchic world we live in it probably won’t, not without a fight.
    Anyway, the whole thing is going to be big in the lead up to the federal election: Labor is beginning to understand that Malbena really does matter. There are votes in it, lots of them.
    On a slightly different matter, I have to say that this was the first time in decades that I’ve seen the issues, as presented by the respondents, tabled and addressed. This is what should have happened in the RAA and EPBC processes but didn’t. I’m not saying I agree with the rationale or the decisions – far from it – but the document displayed a degree of professionalism sadly lacking in previous rounds of consultation.
    My biggest frustration is that this decision reiterates the absurd idea that we have to accept all the things presented in the RAA (and the documents presented in the DA by the developer) even when they violate regulations or are clearly deliberate misrepresentations of the truth. I also disagree that a DA doesn’t have to address bushfire, essential infrastructure that was deliberately left out of the DA, etc., etc. You try and do any of that that next time you put in a DA and see how far you get.
    There’s still plenty of politics left in this before we move on to Direct Action.



    As Greg says the approvals process is completely circular. PWS say that it must go through a rigorous DA planning process and Council has the final say.

    Council say that most of the objections are outside the remit of the planning scheme and that PWS are the authority, so the approval circles back to PWS.

    Take the ‘standing camp’ issue. The four huts proposed in the DA have all the characteristics of permanent buildings and none of the characteristics of tents or tent-like structures.

    What constitutes a ‘standing camp’ is carefully defined in the Standing Camp Policy 2006, at:

    However, the Council has not taken any of the below into account because PWS has declared the development to be a standing camp. They’re the experts, so if they say four huts with walls, roofs, doors, windows, beds, showers and toilets are actually tents, then as far as the Council is concerned, those structures ARE tents!

    Using this logic it seems that any structure could be declared a tent and permissible within the TWWHA.

    I don’t know why PWS didn’t just re-write the standing camp policy to specifically allow the Halls Island development, that would be easier.

    Some relevant extracts from the Standing Camp Policy below.

    “…Without a policy that provides firm standards for the camps, it is easier for the camps to gradually increase towards having infrastructure that is more visible or permanent. This type of unchecked gradual development of remote areas within reserved land is undesirable as in many cases it is not consistent with the reservation values of the land…”

    “”…To optimise public use of the natural environment consistent with maintaining environmental values.
    While this goal and the associated standard are very general, it is important to keep these in the forefront when developing Policy that relates to tourism infrastructure on Reserved Lands….”””

    “…by properly managing the camps, they should have little impact on the environment and other visitors’ experiences…”

    “…A standing camp is a temporary commercial bush camp on reserved land. It provides a guided tour operator with the exclusive use of a campsite for a prescribed period each year…”

    “”…Standing camps are temporary facilities, with all or most structures and equipment removed and re-erected annually. The reasons for this are twofold:

    Firstly, they are set in more remote areas where the general public would not usually appreciate the development of permanent buildings. Allowing only temporary structures is a guard against the gradual increase of infrastructure within these areas…””

    “”…In a standing camp, visitors can feel the wind as it flaps the sides of the tents and hear the surf as they lie down at night….

    This is the point of difference for standing camps. This type of intimate experience cannot be gained by staying in hut or lodge style accommodation with four solid walls and modern conveniences…”””

    “”The minimum criteria for siting a standing camp will be:
    no significant detraction from the enjoyment or use of the reserve by other people…”””

    Not in an area of high wilderness quality...””

    “…The overriding principles in construction design, materials and techniques are to be tent-style accommodation, to minimise environmental damage, maximise the temporary appearance of the development and to keep structures portable…”

    “…The walls and roofs of structures will be made mostly of tent style material…”

    “…The selected access route/s should also consider the need for the camp and the patrons therein to be as discrete as possible to other users of the area….”

    “…The PWS acknowledges that some existing standing camps may not comply with all of the conditions stated in this policy.

    It should be noted however that the guidelines contained in this policy will be fully implemented with any new contract or camp reconstruction…”


    Hi Greg
    Thanks for your work on this!

    The contract planner assessing the proposal has erred .
    The council ought not accept the planner’s recommendations.
    The planner’s error is in assessing the proposal under the “Use Class” of “Visitor Accommodation”.
    The proposal should be assessed under the Use Class of as “Transport depot and distribution. : Use of land for distributing goods and passengers…Examples include…heliport.” ( Central Highlands Interim Planning Scheme 2015 » Part B Administration » 8.0 Assessment of an Application for Use or Development » 8.2 Categorising Use or Development » Table 8.2 Use Classes).
    This is a crucial point. A previous contributor gave the following link in which, on page 25, it states “The helicopter access, the use of helicopters and the land designated as the landing pad within the TWWHA are assessed and considered as being directly associated with and subservient to the Visitor Accommodation Use on the site.” The planning scheme requires a proposal to be assessed under a SINGLE “use”. Once the “use” is accepted as Visitor Accommodation the issue of helicopters becomes irrelevant, and simply disappears from a planning perspective. THE PLANNER HAS MADE THE JUDGEMENT THAT THE HELICOPTER ACCESS IS “SUBSERVIENT TO” OTHER USES. They have uncritically accepted the proponent’s characterisation of the development as primarily visitor accommodation and can be challenged on this judgement.
    It is an easy challenge to put to the Councillors to help them decide whether or not to accept this planners recommendations : Would the proponent be happy to continue with the development without the helicopter component?
    Doesn’t the proposal, under planning terms also involves effectively two “sites”, the island and the separate landing pad (heliport), one might argue that the development proposal should be split in to two: a proposal for Visitor Accommodation, and a proposal for Transport Depot and Distribution, since they are on two “sites?” Which “sites” does the proponent have leases for? I know they have one for the island, but do they also have one for he helipad?

    I have not met the deadline to speak at the Bothwell meeting on Tuesday. If you think it of value could you please put these thoughts in the hands of someone who can speak.


    quote Rwebb” post=331052:

    As Greg says the approvals process is completely circular. …”

    It’s not really circular. What council says is true. Everyone (Federal, State and Local Govt) has their role and they don’t overlap. When the PWS say that people will get input through EPBC and the DA, they do so knowing that the input doesn’t apply to anything related to the State based approvals process. It is classic spin.

    The State Govt has successfully spread the blame to the Federal and Local Governments on this. In reality there isn’t much that is covered by their respective patches. The State Govt is 100% to blame this. Commercialising the wilderness was their policy. They called for the EOI. They changed the management plan to allow for development. The issued the RAA approvals without any public consultation or public scrutiny. And they issued a presumably favourable lease to get the whole thing going. Give them credit where credit is due.


    Son of a Beach

    I won’t be able to make the CHC meeting (working). I skimmed through their assessment report and read a few bits and pieces until I literally started to feel sick. I didn’t sleep much that night!

    It appears from the report that the approval is a done deal already. Anywhere where an objector has disagreed with the proponents view of things, the report merely states that it complies. Ie, they have assumed that the proponent is correct and justified, and that the objector is incorrect and ignorant. …or perhaps they simply couldn’t be bothered doing any real assessment.

    Off the top of my head, two such instances in the report were:

    1. Where the plan says that buildings must not be constructed on ridge tops, the developer doesn’t mention ridge tops, but says that they buildings will not be visible. However, the location IS actually on the ridge along the middle of the island. Several people pointed this out in their objections – ie, this is CLEARLY against the planning code, but the report simply states that it complies with the code.

    2. The other instance under the stormwater part of the code (6.7 from memory) the developer says that they will re-use stormwater, therefore it doesn’t need to do anything to manage stormwater. One of my objections was that it is not physically possible for the developer to store and use all of the rain that would fall on the roofs of their proposed buildings, the vast majority of it (at least for 8 months of the year) would overflow their rainwater tanks and therefore be unmanaged stormater. The report ignored this and simply stated that the proposal complies with section 6.7 for stormwater. Again, this is clearly in breach of the code, and yet has been assessed as complying with the code.

    So surely this is either incompetence or corruption.

    They are clearly ignoring objections and stating that the proposal complies in at least these two cases, and probably many more. I couldn’t read much more than that because it was becoming too stressful for me.

    If anybody who is speaking at the CHC meeting can look into raising these points and other points where the objections have been effectively ignored, I’d be grateful.

    The proponents should be made to address all of the objections to breaches of the planning code.

    Oh, and at the end of the assessment where one of the only two items in favour of the development said that it complied with “UNESCO approved” management plan. Wow! So wrong on SO many levels!



    Unfortunately it was a critical three days to miss in the life of this thread and a lot has happened. After the public meeting the CH Council did reject the Wild Drake application (6 votes to 3), but at the behest of the Premier an appeal against the Council’s ruling is likely. To their great credit, and for the first time in this entire process at any political level, the Councillors did read, listen, and vote accordingly. It took a lot of guts for them to resist what must have been a mountain of political pressure.

    The story has been picked up and well reported by all state and major national media services so a quick online search will fill in the gaps.


Viewing 15 posts - 241 through 255 (of 488 total)

This topic is temporarily locked.