Thursday 4 September 2008

Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Madam President, few political dissidents and observers these days would play down the importance of proper consultation over policy and priorities.  Quite simply if you do not listen, you do not get re-elected.  It is more than just listening; there need to be dialogues at different levels and between a number of parties.  We all know what happens if you just listen willy-nilly.  There is a lot of chaff to be sifted through.  It is far better to be listening to well-thought-out, consensual arguments and ideas.
Governments and organisations can help to generate this better quality material through public forums and workshops.  I would like to detail an excellent example of this process, which took place in Launceston last month.  It was a highly successful workshop under the auspices of TEER, the Tamar Estuary and Esk Rivers management body, following on from their Tamar Estuary and Foreshore Management Plan which was released four or five weeks ago.  The aim was to bring together about 50 stakeholders in the Tamar estuary and its catchment region to look at the issues that require management and how to address them.  That forum has given governments, and us northern members, an excellent view of what stakeholders think about the problems of the estuary and its catchment region and how they can be managed.  It has concentrated our minds, many minds.
I know this TEER forum was about one regional issue, but some of the concepts put forward are equally applicable to other estuary and catchment areas around the State:  the Mersey, King River, Macquarie Harbour, the Derwent estuary.  The process is almost applicable to any environmental or land management problem which needs innovative government action.
I would like to broadly detail the process, how it worked and the outcomes from that forum.  The TEER workshop brought together 50 stakeholders organised in conjunction with Natural Resource Management North whose Amanda Locatelli was a prominent participant.  As well as our regional Legislative Councillors, those invited included a TFGA representative, people from Fisheries Tasmania, Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service, Hydro, Esk Water, local government and many others.
What happens when you put 50 people in a room to consider the Tamar and its tributaries?  What do they talk about first?  What do they talk about?  Would you think silt, silt and more silt?  The five groups decided independently on another issue entirely.  It was the need for a single authority to oversee the management of the whole of the Tamar estuary and its catchment region, including the two Esk rivers.  At the end of the day's discussions siltation management was ranked, would you believe, at number six of the issues for the future.
What were the issues of greater concern apart from jurisdiction and governance?  Funding was a close number two.  This sends a message to the State Government on this issue.  Few members of any of the five groups had any confidence in forthcoming State government funding to support the management of one Tasmania's most important river and estuary systems.
There was agreement that there should be funding from all three tiers of government.  But such was the mood of cynicism that some participants spoke of alternative funding structures.  Some even suggested that the State Government was irrelevant in such regional issues and it should be bypassed altogether.
Mr Wing - Never.
Mr FINCH - There were suggestions that a proportion of GST revenue should go directly to regional or local government organisations for regional problems; perhaps a subject for the Treasurer to ponder.  In the priority stakes information and communication was third; flora and fauna, fourth; and climate change and drought was fifth.  Madam President, if you just sit back and listen to concerns about the Tamar or read the Letters to the Editor, you get the impression that siltation is the dominant or almost the only issue, but if you create a disciplined dialogue it is a different story, and that is why it is not good enough to just listen.  This TEER forum has sent a very clear and unified message to government, and all levels of government can now act knowing that the problem is not just one of sediment in the upper basin.  A single authority is needed to oversee the whole Tamar catchment region.
The results of this very interesting workshop facilitated and organised by Bob Campbell, Linda Jones and Amanda Locatelli will be made available soon to participants and others.  Of course there are similar problems in all upper House electorates, as I have mentioned.  Members who are interested can obtain a copy of the Tamar Estuary Management Plan and the State of the Tamar Report by contacting TEER or Northern Resource Management, but the clear message to governments, Madam President, is that if you want to hear the real concerns out there, if you want the true story and, I suppose, if you want to perform well at elections, you have to do more than just listen.