Thursday 26 June 2008
Estimates Committee B
Division 10 (Department of Premier and Cabinet)

Development of Local Government:
Problems of the Tamar Estuary
Mr FINCH - Minister, there is an argument going on in Launceston over which level of government is responsible for fixing some of the problems in the Tamar estuary.  Some on the Launceston City Council seem to think it is the responsibility of the Federal member for Bass to continually argue for money from Canberra.  Others say it is a State government responsibility.  As the Minister for Local Government I want to flesh out your view on this situation of silt in the Tamar basin.

Mr COX - There is too much of it.  That is my opinion.

Mr FINCH - Whose responsibility do you think it is?

Mr COX - In no way am I going to get involved in a mud-slinging match over who is right and who is wrong.  I thought it was a bit of an assassination attempt and I do not intend to be part of it.  The matter involves the Department of Primary Industries and Water.  You would be aware that the Government has committed $13 million, along with a commitment of $13 million from Launceston City.  You would be aware that the Government has put money up for that silt program for a study to be done on that.  We have committed funds for that.  I am not going to go down the path of who is doing the job and who is not.  I met with the general manager and the mayor - Mrs Butler was with me at the time - and the Premier met again and my colleague, Michelle O'Byrne, also met with them.  Not long after that the Premier met with them and offered money for the study.  As far as I am concerned, that is our role at this stage.  Let's see what the study brings out and then we will move to the next step.  As for who is right, who is supporting what, and who should do it - no, not involved.

Mr WING - I would like to ask some questions on that subject.  Bearing in mind that 92 per cent of the flood plains outside the Launceston City Council boundary and just about all the silt comes from outside the boundary, Minister, I would like to know if you would agree, as the minister for local government, that the ratepayers of Launceston should not have significant responsibility for funding the removal of the silt from the Tamar?  As just about all of the silt comes from areas outside the boundaries, would you agree that it is mainly the State Government's responsibility to fund that rather than the ratepayers of Launceston?

Mr COX - A good try, Mr Wing - a very good try - see, I am in both.

Mr WING - You are which?

Mr COX - I am in both.


Mr COX - That is what the study is designed for.  This is the request that was made to Government by the Launceston City Council.  We are honouring that request, we are being part of that request.  The request is for a study to bring in an expert to find out what you are saying.  Is it true?  Is it not true?  I do not know.  I know a little about a lot of things but I know very little about where silt comes from and what the cause was.  If I listen to every story that I have been told - and I think have about 30 different reasons - it is a bit like road safety, there is an expert around every corner.

I am very comfortable, as I know the general manager of Launceston City Council is, that his request to the mayor was for funding for a study.  We have agreed to do that and I think, at this stage, we will wait and see what that study finds.

Mr WING - Do you agree that the only way to remove the large build-up of silt in the Tamar now is to physically get it out of the river?

Mr COX - Again, I am not an expert.  The only dealings I have had with anything like this were with the St Helens barway and I heard so many different theories as to how to do it.  I was told that was the only way to do it.  When we brought the experts in, they showed us a different way.  I am smart enough not to make a commitment.

Mr WING - I think there is a consensus on this but we won't pursue it at this stage.

CHAIR - We won't today, thank you.