Monday 23 June 2008
Estimates Committee B
Mr FINCH - The surgeon Dr Gary Fedke (TBC) said recently that he was frustrated at the growing number of injuries to young off road motorcyclists.  He said that he had operated on an average of six patients a weekend for the past few years.

Ms O'BYRNE - He is not happy about giving up his weekend every weekend.

Mr FINCH - Launceston Junior Motorcycle Club president, George Chamberlain, responded to that by saying, 'As well as income tax, we pay tax to the Government for the purchase of bikes, tyres, fuel, et  cetera, and the Government offers no assistance to clubs like ours who are trying to establish a safe place for people to ride'.  He went on to say, 'We are an entry level club, and you would think the Government would be interested in spreading the safety message through clubs like ours'.  Can I just have a response from you and your advice on this issue?

Ms O'BYRNE - This is where I am really happy to say I am also the Minister for Environment, Parks, Heritage and the Arts, because, under that department, we have just had a two-day recreational vehicle summit, in a sense, with representatives from off road vehicle users from a whole range of motorbikes through to quad bikes and the larger vehicles as well to talk about how you actually provide strategies and structures around doing that.  We are in the process of defining a strategy document of where we might go.  That is about defining places, defining the sort of things that we might want around that.

Mr FINCH - Is this Sport and Recreation Tasmania you are talking about?

Ms O'BYRNE - This is actually happening through the Department of Environment, Parks, Heritage and the Arts as a recreational vehicle strategy, because they tend to be the locations that people do their off road vehicle use of whatever nature that might be.  The other thing is I have had a little bit of a look at what Victoria has been doing in terms of creating defined places for motorbike use in particular and how we might do that, the type of land we might need to use.  We have had some initial discussions with other government landowners about how we might progress that as an option.  I am happy to talk to you about the recreational vehicle use strategy.  If you have an interest in it, it is something that we are developing an interest in right now.

In terms of Sport and Recreation, it does not tend to be something that we fund as an entity.  It is more of an issue that we are experiencing as a result of land managers in terms of the places that they will do it and the safety around that.

Mr FINCH - But with these clubs, this might be a way to start their educative process with these young motor cyclists to perhaps help allay the fears and concerns of Dr Gary Fedke about the number of injuries.

Ms O'BYRNE - I am really pleased that the amount of organisations that actually wanted to participate in the strategy, because I think they are clearly saying that they see a need for structure around off road vehicle use, which has always been seen as a kind of, "I'm just going to go off there and do it".  Every now and then, clubs form around particular interest groups, but I think there is far more structure occurring now, and we are happy to work with them.  I know you have an interest, and when we have the department here, we might touch a bit on that because it has an impact for a whole host of other land management issues for us.

CHAIR - Minister, I am interested to know, given that there quite a lot of initiatives and programs, how many outside consultants has the department used in the last 12 months and for what programs?  I can appreciate that we can always take this information on notice.

Ms O'BYRNE - In terms of giving you a detailed one, we probably would take it on notice, because we do use consultants on occasion.  But our sport and recreation consultants are internal staff, people who are directly employed, but they consult in the community.

CHAIR - I am talking about outside.

Ms O'BYRNE - We can take that on notice.  Predominantly, I am advised when consultants are used that they are engaged by organisations that we provided funding to and we would rarely actually directly engage people to do something ourselves.

CHAIR - What about the staffing?

Ms O'BYRNE - Again, I will get that for you on notice.  Most of the Sport and Recreation people probably ride to work.

CHAIR - They probably do, but given that they cover large areas, there is probably a vehicle component in there as well.  Mr Wing, you had one question.

Mr WING - Thank you, just another one as a result of the minister's answer.  There seems to be a significant imbalance in the number of staff in the north and north-west.

Ms O'BYRNE - You have not met them.

Mr WING - Why is that, and can that be redressed?

Ms O'BYRNE - We have staff in administrative and grant programs who do the grant administration.  In terms of sport and recreation consultants, there is not an imbalance, as I understand it.

Mr WING - So, could they not do their work just as effectively in the northern half of Tasmania, and would you look at that to see if we could redress that imbalance?

Ms O'BYRNE - I think they would probably hate it if I relocated them at this point.  There is the internal administrative stuff that occurs that is done in the south.  The other thing that tends to happen in the south of the State is engagement with State sporting organisations because most of them have their head offices in the south of the State.  But there is not, as I am advised, an imbalance in terms of Sport and Recreation consultants that are actually out engaging with sports and providing opportunities for them.

Mr WING - Will you have a close look at that and see if when it becomes necessary to replace staff whether you can have them located in the north or north-west?

Ms O'BYRNE - I am happy to look at those things.  It would depend very much on what additional costs would be in housing them, but I am happy to look at that.  I am advised that, as a matter of course, when the department looks at new positions, they investigate where the most appropriate place to house that position might be.  I am happy to have another look.