MANAGEMENT OF TAMAR AND ESK RIVERS SELECT COMMITTEE
Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Motion) - Madam President, I move -
That a select committee be appointed, with power to send for persons and papers, and with leave to adjourn from place to place, to inquire into and report upon -
(1) The desirability and appropriateness of a single statutory authority being appointed to undertake research, take advice, manage and take appropriate action to alleviate or overcome flooding, including the management and requirements of the levee system, siltation and other problems associated with the Tamar estuary and the Esk rivers and their catchments, including their environmental health and also -
(a) to determine the cause or causes of the siltation problem;
(b) to assess the amount of funds needed and to determine the appropriate method of funding the work required to alleviate the risk and extent of flooding as well as to reduce the quantity and impact of siltation and to take whatever other measures are necessary or desirable to improve and protect this river system; and
(2) any other matters incidental thereto.
And that Mr Dean, Mr Wing, and the mover be of the committee.
The compelling argument for this inquiry is that the Tamar estuary and its catchment need to be managed by a single body. Partly with that aim, the Tamar Estuary and Esk Rivers program - or TEER - was set up this year, but many of those concerned with the management of the estuary and its catchments believe there should be a single authority to oversee all the various studies and environmental work going on in the catchment and the estuary. Hearing submissions on this is the central work of this proposed inquiry.
Madam President, the Tamar Estuary and Esk Rivers program - TEER - was formally launched in Launceston in July by the State Minister for Environment, Parks, Heritage and the Arts, Michelle O'Byrne, along with the Federal member for Bass, Jodie Campbell and Natural Resource Management - NRM. NRM North Chair, Richard Ireland, welcomed the establishment of TEER at a time when he said, 'The community is expecting both greater accountability and possible solutions.'
This reinforces the argument for a single statutory authority. NRM is federally funded and is engaged in the Tamar Estuary Management Plan and projects such as removing cracked willows from Launceston rivers and weeds from the South Esk. The TEER program provides the vehicle for managing the Tamar estuary and its tributaries from catchment to coast and enables all partners to work together towards a common goal. It is a collaboration between the State Government, National Resource Management North, the Launceston City Council, the West Tamar Council, the George Town Council, the Meander Valley Council and Hydro Tasmania. The Northern Midlands Council, I might say, has declined to join this group.
Mr Hall - But they're on the way, aren't they?
Mr FINCH - One would hope so. Only a month after its formation, TEER held a future directions workshop attended by 50 stakeholders and others who were concerned with the Tamar estuary and its catchments. This workshop was highly successful. Those who attended included people from the TFGA, Fisheries Tasmania, Parks and Wildlife, local government and Hydro. Basically, the workshop participants identified concerns over the Tamar estuary and its catchments as they perceived them. There was a surprising degree of agreement on priorities. The main concern was that there was not a single authority to manage the whole estuary and catchments. Suggestions ranged from a statutory authority to a regional catchment government. The degree of agreement for a single authority was amazing.
The elected Chair of TEER, Scott Gadd, of the Department of Environment, Parks, Heritage and the Arts, was an enthusiastic attendee. He firmly took on board the almost unanimous agreement that a single authority was needed. He wrote to me soon after and I would like to quote from part of that letter:
' it is clear to me that should a statutory authority gain support and subsequent endorsement, the existing TEER committee and related entities could easily work under it or any other body that was established.
The existing structures provide the means for such an authority to carry out its agenda, provided the authority remains focussed on the issues impacting on the estuary.
Obviously any decision to join such an authority would need to be discussed and endorsed by the full committee of TEER.'
That is the view of the Chair of TEER, Scott Gadd. However, a move to set up a statutory authority, in this case, should not be taken lightly, hence the need, I believe, for a select committee to hear all the views and to investigate all the implications.
Madam President, I believe the findings of this proposed select committee inquiry would provide very useful information for managing other river catchments around Tasmania. Apart from the desirability of a single statutory authority, the select committee would also hear submissions on two prominent problems with the upper Tamar: sediment build-up and Launceston's flood risk. I will just quote from the motion again, if I could, Madam President, from clause (1)(a) and (1)(b):
'(a) to determine the cause or causes of the siltation problem;
(b) to assess the amount of funds needed and to determine the appropriate method of funding the work required to alleviate the risk and extent of flooding as well as to reduce the quantity and impact of siltation and to take whatever other measures are necessary or desirable to improve and protect this river system;'
As far as the subject of funding is concerned, Madam President, it could be argued that a single statutory authority is the best way to set priorities. To simplify this proposed inquiry and, hopefully, to speed up its work, I propose streamlining the process by keeping the numbers of members to three and that would be the three Legislative Councillors whose electorates actually encompass the Tamar estuary - Rosevears, Windermere and Launceston.
I do not want to give the impression that the Tamar is a disaster area. It does have its obvious problems but there is much to be optimistic about. There is much to be proud of. At the launch of TEER in July, two important reports were also released: the State of the Tamar River Report 2008 and the Tamar Estuary Management Plan 2008, which provides information and management strategies to underpin the TEER program.
In launching the State of the Tamar River Report the minister, Michelle O'Byrne, said, and I quote:
'The State of the Tamar Report reviews the environmental quality data for the Tamar Estuary to determine the state of its health, and highlight environmental trends. The report is a review on environmental data for the Tamar estuary from 1997 to 2005.'
Ms O'Byrne said that the report showed that the estuary was in relatively good condition when compared to other estuaries around Australia which had a similar level of urban development, but she went on:
'The Tamar Estuary has a rich diversity of plants and animals supporting more than 60 species of birds and 110 species of finfish.
It is also home to a number of threatened species and native vegetation communities, including the threatened green and gold frog which breeds at the Tamar Island wetlands.'
So there is a good story to be told about the Tamar and we often overlook it when we focus on problems like silt and rice grass. I confess, Madam President, that I, too, am probably guilty in this respect.
Since first being elected to Rosevears six-and-a-half-years ago -
Mr Hall - You've talked nothing but silt.
Mr FINCH - Yes, I know - I have focused very much on the problem of the silt settlement problem in the upper Tamar reaches, but the water flows through the Cataract Gorge is also a problem that I have shared with the member for Launceston. I remember going into great detail about siltation in a special interest speech - somebody may have seen me get up that time in April 2005 - but followed a meeting of the Upper Tamar River Improvement Authority chaired by Alderman Graeme Beams which looked at numerous arguments about the causes of the silt problem and potential solutions. I will quote my opening two paragraphs addressed to the then President of the House, and I am sure members will remember this:
'Mr President, the continuing debate over what to do about silt problems in the upper reaches of the Tamar River has intensified in recent weeks and I would like to take this opportunity to bring some of the arguments to the attention of this House. It would seem that the only thing everyone can agree on is that the silt in the upper Tamar is a subject of great concern. There seems to be as many opinions on the cause and the cure as there are dredge-loads of silt to be removed.'
Ms Forrest - Have you measured that?
Mr FINCH - Yes, I have been obsessed by the silt problem in the past, as have scores of other people and particularly the general public through the letters they have written to the Examiner, and experts as well.
I now take a broader view that fits with the establishment of TEER to help manage the whole estuary and the catchment, with the argument for a single statutory authority. No solutions to the Tamar's problems are likely to be found in the estuary alone. That is why this study will cover the Esk rivers and the catchment areas. I believe that the establishment of this proposed inquiry is the next logical step after the establishment of TEER. I believe it will finally lay to rest some of the protracted arguments that have bedevilled the management of the Tamar and its catchment. I sincerely hope it will receive the support of this Chamber.
Mr DEAN (Windermere) - I thank the member for Rosevears for moving this motion and discussing it because I think it is necessary. I think we need something in place now to take control of this and to move forward. I will start by making a quick reference to a comment made by Wollongong University associate professor, Professor Brian Jones, on 1 February 2006 to an ABC program when he said that this problem is much bigger than one local council. He was making it clear there that it involved a number of local councils, it involved a much greater area than just Launceston. Professor Jones said a lot of other things and perhaps the member for Launceston might go into other things he referred to in looking at this problem.
We are all aware that there is a current deed of agreement that has been entered into between the Launceston City Council and the State Government in relation to the levee situation and the flooding situation. One section of that agreement requires the establishment of a single authority to be set up under section 30 of the Local Government Act 1993. If this motion gets up today - and I would hope it does because we need this further investigation and inquiries to occur - we will need to give some thought to that agreement and what recommendations we would need to make in accordance with that agreement because if it did occur, it would require amendments to that agreement. The agreement refers in the main to the levees, and their construction and maintenance. However, there are two other parts to it which require, under the category of 'other functions of the authority', that the authority will also be responsible for all flood-risk mitigation structures in the Launceston flood protection scheme. So it does go wider than that. It also says that it will take over the existing functions of UTRIA which, as we know, has a responsibility for cleaning out the siltation in the river basin and maintaining a reasonable channel through that area. This new authority, set up under the Local Government Act, will take control of all of that.
My concern, that I have voiced before in another place, is what authority that group will have outside of the local government Launceston council area.
Mr Wing - None.
Mr DEAN - I think that is the point that the honourable members for Launceston and Rosevears will make very clearly. What authority will it have outside the local government area? It really cannot have any other than, I would suggest, the ability to make recommendations. If it determined that there were problems associated with an area in, say, Dorset, or an area in the Meander Valley area and/or Northern Midlands or somewhere else I suppose it could make recommendations and in consultation with those other local government areas then come back to some State support.
I am not sure how it would operate but to me it does not seem to be the right way to go. To have one legislated body, with the ability to look at all of these issues, to take control of all of these issues of a wider area, would be a much better way to go. There was a lot of discussion in the State Government on this and I must say that with another hat on I was involved in some of those discussions with the State Government. That is what this select committee of inquiry would be all about, it would be gathering information, gathering evidence to see whether or not that is necessary. I would be very surprised if it did not come back supporting the authority that we refer to in this motion.
With a local government authority there is the added issue of whether or not you are going to get the right people on that body. This body, in my view, requires the best people possible that have the knowledge, the professional background and understanding of what these problems are all about, how we can counteract them and what we need to do to progress it.
I do not know whether or not a local government authority would have the finances to support and provide funding to attract the right people into that committee. I do have some concerns about that as well. There is a lot research currently being done and the member for Rosevears has referred to that. Not only do we have the TEER program that is involved in this but we have a number of other groups currently looking at the siltation problems. We know that there has been funding provided by the State Government for another study to be done in conjunction with Launceston City Council. I think GDH is the group -
Mr Hall - GHD.
Mrs Rattray-Wagner - GH & D.
Mr DEAN - GH & D is the group that has been selected for the carrying out of that further review, investigation and inquiry. If you look back over time, in the history of this river there have been many studies done. I think that is another thing that this select committee will do; it will be able to bring a lot of that together and pick the eyes out of it and use it. I am not so sure that that has previously been done. All these studies have happened -
Mr Finch - Yes, through you, Madam President - Amanda Locatelli, who was with TEER from NRM, was given the task of doing that, of pulling all the information together under one umbrella rather than it sitting on various shelves all over the community and all over various establishments. That is where it now, I believe, sits with TEER. They have all that information gathered together.
Mr DEAN - Thank you for that contribution. So that will come into TEER, and TEER will be a big part of this as well. We will want TEER to make a submission to us, and provide us with whatever information they can as well.
Siltation is a huge problem, and not only for the Launceston area; it goes wider than Launceston. It goes up the Tamar River for some distance. Evidence is now being provided to us that the situation is now far worse than it has ever been.
In making that statement, there is also evidence from engineers who say that that really is not right. Some engineers will say that if you look at the Tamar River in the early 1900s they will provide photographs to you which will show very clearly that the Tamar River was very badly silted back then. It is interesting -
Mr Parkinson - When was that?
Mr DEAN - Back in the early 1900s and even in the late 1800s there is evidence to show that. If you look at a lot of the photographs that were around about that time, in one of the very early photographs it very clearly depicts the siltation levels and it is very obvious, very evident. But most of the photographs taken of the Tamar River are taken at high tide so you look at them and say, 'Look at this beautiful river back then', but then you have to realise that it was taken at high tide. Even if you take a photograph now at high tide it looks pretty good, so you have to get it into the proper context.
There was a comment recently in the paper, Madam President, and I am not quite sure of the gentleman's name but the member for Rosevears might remember this statement that was made in the paper, where he said that it was not all that long ago when we had a sandy beach down near Selfs Point or somewhere on the Tamar River and that people were there bathing off this sandy beach. But there was a later statement made to the paper from another gentleman who knew the area very well and said that the sand had been carted in to make it look like a beach for a specific occasion. So it was not all what it was said to be in the first instance, a nice sandy beach that siltation gradually and finally took over. The evidence indicates that was not the case.
Mr Finch - Through you, Madam President - it was interesting that the very early maps of Launceston - 1805, 1806 - show drawings down near the upper reaches of the Tamar. Now you know where the boat-building shed is near the Tamar Yacht Club there. On the map it clearly shows mud. Mud was a component of what was going on at the upper reaches of the river right before settlement.
Mr DEAN - Yes, you are right; thank you for that comment as well. But if you look at Launceston back in those times, Invermay did not exist. A big part of Invermay was in fact just tea-tree swamp, and all of that has now been recovered over time. People have interfered with it and we have changed the face of this river and very clearly, where you get human involvement in some issues, it creates some other problems as well.
Mrs Rattray-Wagner - It's still called 'Swampyland'.
Mr DEAN - It is to some people, isn't it? You are right.
Mr Finch - We've created a lot of problems - we've had to play for the North Launceston Football Club.
Mr Martin - You're still approving developments there, aren't you?
Ms Forrest - Yes, that is the other point.
Mr DEAN - I was hoping the member for Elwick would not raise that because the other day I got very animated, and for the information of the member for Elwick, I strongly opposed it for reasons of risk and danger should there be a flood or a breakdown of the levees et cetera. Unfortunately I was not able to convince too many others. In fact, it is interesting you should raise that because the deed of agreement that I previously referred to, of which you are all aware, was four days away from the money being actually provided to local government. The agreement was signed off several months ago, and four days prior to the money being handed over some people saw fit to rearrange that deed of agreement without consultation with the State Government, and I think you know the rest.
Mr Martin - Did you get the money?
Mr DEAN - It has not actually been handed over yet but we have now sorted it out. I remember once again becoming animated telling a number of people that you just cannot do that.
Mrs Rattray-Wagner - You persuaded them to reverse the decision though, didn't you?
Mr DEAN - I stood alone on that matter as well. However at the following meeting, Madam President, that motion was rescinded and it came back to the position that I said that we had to go with. Some interesting things happen.
Ms Forrest - Did you say, 'I told you so'?
Mr DEAN - I certainly did.
Mr Parkinson - Unfortunately, by then it was too late.
Mr DEAN - I think the honourable Treasurer is well and truly aware of my stance on that.
I think this is a move in the right direction. It will be interesting to see what comes of this select committee and I am confident it will be supported because I think all members in this House know very well the position of the Tamar River and would know that it is believed at this stage - and there is some evidence - that a lot of the problems in the Tamar River are emanating from far afield in the top areas of the North Esk and South Esk rivers coming from other areas. There has been a number of things put forward as to what is causing it. Some say that farming has created some of the siltation, with animal stock close to rivers and through rivers, forestry timber operations -
Mr Hall - They can close down the catchment level.
Mr Parkinson - The honourable member for Launceston thinks it's because there's not enough water flowing down the Gorge.
Mr DEAN - There have been a lot of reasons put forward and there is not a lot of concrete evidence available at this stage, to my understanding, to identify exactly what the situation is, because a lot of people are saying that the siltation simply moves and returns and it has been there for ever and a day and is not getting any worse. That is what a lot of people are saying. You cannot get in there and move all of the silt at the one time as there would be huge collapses because the siltation has built up so far and under buildings -
Mrs Rattray-Wagner - Since 1806.
Mr DEAN - Yes, you are right, the early 1800s. I said early 1900s but early 1800s as well.
Mrs Rattray-Wagner - That was before farming in Dorset or anywhere else.
Mr DEAN - Yes.
Madam President, I do not need to take this too much further but just to add again that any authority set up to take responsibility for the catchments, levees and siltation must be a body with a lot of strength and clout, in my view, because of what they will be required to do. They will also need the appropriate funding to go with this. There is funding provided to the local authority that we have set up under the Local Government Act and that is indexed annually but, once again, I would have some concerns as to whether or not that funding would be sufficient for this body to operate in the way that it will probably need to.
I probably should take this opportunity also just to mention that UTRIA, which will be disbanded under that local government authority that will be set up, has done a good job. There are some people who are well and truly aware of where it has been and what it has done. It has had to work under some difficult circumstances at times in relation to funding issues but in my view, UTRIA has done a very good job in managing the Tamar River's siltation difficulties and problems. Alderman Beams would be known to some of you here and I must also commend him for what he has done and his passion for the Tamar River.
I do not need to take this any further, Madam President, other than to say that I was delighted when the member for Rosevears approached me and asked if I would consider being a part of this committee because of my background and knowledge of it and the fact -
Ms Forrest - That you are part of the cause.
Mr DEAN - No, I am not a part of the cause.
Mr Wilkinson - You felt he invited you to his party.
Mr DEAN - I am passionate about the Tamar River as well, as would be anybody living in that area because not only is it important to Launceston, it is important to the State. It is the longest navigable estuary in the State -
Mr Parkinson - Rubbish.
Mr DEAN - It is.
Mr Wilkinson - It soon won't be if the silt keeps building up.
Mr Parkinson - It's not as navigable as the Derwent.
Mr DEAN - It is so. It is of incredible significance and it is an area that is now being utilised a lot as well for scenic boat trips, sporting activity, rowing in particular. It is a wonderful support of the rowing fraternity.
Mrs Rattray-Wagner - To house old ships and boats.
Mr DEAN - It houses old ships and boats, but thank goodness this Chamber at the end of the day is able to support some legislation that has already had some success.
Mrs Rattray-Wagner - Very limited success.
Mr DEAN - It has had some success already and they may have some further success in the future. I support the motion.
Mr WILKINSON (Nelson) - I can recall that years ago I travelled to Launceston a lot because my grandparents on my father's side lived there.
Mrs Rattray-Wagner - On the river?
Mr WILKINSON - No, Malabar Street, Newstead. The talk always was, 'It's a river that flows like the Yarra, upside down'. Life was kept away from the Tamar because they believed it was an ugly river and a river that did not draw people to it. I think, to its credit, Launceston in recent times - and it has only been recent times, I think - now is starting to get back to the river. The developments that have been occasioned in the last 15 years or thereabouts with Seaport and others are now starting to bring people back to the Tamar. The honourable member for Rosevears took us on that tour last year and we went up the Tamar by boat. It was a magnificent view and a magnificent trip and one can understand why people want to protect the Tamar.
I can understand the concerns of the honourable member for Rosevears but I can also understand, I think, concerns - even though they have not been expressed to me - but I would believe by the Government and the administration of this Chamber that the number of select committees we are having needs a good inquiry, not a select committee.
Mr Dean - Into the select committees?
Mr WILKINSON - That is what I just said, not a select committee, but a good discussion about ways we properly run select committees. What is happening at the moment is - my experience is not great, it is 13-and-a-half years in this Chamber; there are a couple who have been longer than that - this is the greatest number of select committees and joint committees we have ever had running. There comes a time when we get to exhaustion stage in relation to personnel, both members of parliament and administrative staff, and to finances. That being the case, I think as members we have to say, 'How many can we entertain at the one time?' If it continues - and I do not know what the cut-off mark is - it is going to mean that there are not going to be the resources to properly have select committees and be able to inquire into and report the way we would like.
I was able to obtain, because I asked for it - it was not because it was voluntarily given to me - a list of the committees and free days in October and November. I know that different members are on different committees but there are a great deal also on a number of committees. Without trying to decipher who is on what committee on what day, when you look at the broad picture we can see that in October there are only six days free for committees to take place because on all the other days there are other committees being run. In relation to November, at this stage it is seven days. What is happening also is that those days are quickly going to be gobbled up with the present committees and sitting times for those. So already we are at, I believe, exhaustion point so far as the number of select and joint committees we can run at the same time.
Ms Forrest - Through you, Madam President - the appointment of our new ministers effectively takes another two members out of the picture so far as involvement in committee work is concerned. That exacerbates the situation you are talking bout.
Mr WILKINSON - Thank you for that, it does. As I say, I am a supporter of the Tamar River. I could not always understand why people did not want to embrace the river when, as a young child in short pants, I travelled up there very regularly indeed. I understand the problems with the silt; that has been a problem for a long time. I wonder if this is urgent. I wonder if we need to start this committee straight off or, alternatively, whether we, as members of parliament in this upper House, should have a round-table discussion bringing in the expertise of the administration to see exactly how many we can run at the one time in order to properly do it justice. In my humble view, we are just about at breaking point, if not at breaking point. We do have to bring in extra resources to properly deal with them. This is going to be even more and I just wonder whether we are capable of properly carrying out our work with the current workload.
Ms Forrest - Through you, Madam President - do you believe there is another way of achieving the ends of this committee?
Mr WILKINSON - I suppose one could argue, as has been argued previously, that matters like this go before, let us say, the ERD committee. There are problems getting that together and I believe it is probably easier to get together members of this Legislative Council as a whole than it is to get both Legislative Council and House of Assembly because we all realise that the House of Assembly is far more difficult to get to the table than members of this House.
Ms Forrest - But outside the committee structure, is there another way of achieving it?
Mr WILKINSON - I do not know. I think that is the discussion we have to have rather than trying to brainstorm here. I just raised it because I think it is an important issue.
Mr Parkinson - It has very little to do with the debate but it is an interesting issue.
Mr WILKINSON - It has not because it goes to whether you agree that this select committee should proceed or not.
Mr Finch - No date has been set on this, member for Nelson. I am not specifying a date. That can come out in the discussions, if we get the nod.
Madam PRESIDENT - I think, rather than have the conversation, when you close debate you will be able to put all this together and make your comments.
Mr Finch - Thank you, Madam President.
Madam PRESIDENT - Now we will go back to the topic, thank you.
Mr WILKINSON - That was what I was going to get at and the honourable member for Rosevears, with his crystal ball, has obviously rubbed it very hard and come out with that in mind. That is, if there is a certain amount that can be dealt with at the one time, then does the new select committee, if it is deemed appropriate, go onto the end of the list? When one finishes, this one slips in and starts to build up. I think it is a problem. In summary, I believe it is very relevant to what we are talking about here because I think the resources are not going to be endless. In the end the Treasurer is going to say, you have asked for enough, you cannot get any more. The Ashley select committee cost approximately $35 000. When you are looking at select committees they are not -
Ms Thorp - Joint question time would be cheaper.
Mr WILKINSON - It depends because if somebody asked you a question today there would be two questions in the whole joint question time.
Mr WILKINSON - What I am saying is that -
Ms Ritchie - At least you have the good grace to blush.
Mr WILKINSON - Thank you. I did not like saying it, I take it back. Can we scrub that? That is in camera.
Ms Thorp - Point taken.
Mr WILKINSON - What I am saying is that we need to have a good look at it. I believe now is the time that we have to have a good look at it. Do we say that this is not a committee to proceed with? I do not want to say that. I think it is an issue that has been going around now for 200 years. I do not know whether the next three months are going to make a great deal of difference. Therefore, do we put it onto the list to be dealt with when another select committee finishes? There are a couple that are very close, I would believe, to finishing at the moment. We have to look at the staff. They are at breaking point. You cannot have extra people being brought in, in order to do it. Therefore, I think, what we have to do is all say, let us sit down, let us discuss it, let us look at the best way to do it, if we are going to have this number of committees that we have at the moment which is more than there has been in the last 13-and-a-half years.
Mr HALL (Western Tiers) - Madam President, I want to make a few short comments. Initially, I would say that I do support in principle, the motion that the honourable member for Rosevears has -
Mr Finch - However?
Mr HALL - I have not been able to get around to 'however' yet. Yes, it does say 'however', now that you have reminded me. I think the honourable member for Nelson did raise some valid points concerning the mechanisms of this House so that is something we may have to think of. That is perhaps a debate for another time, although at the end of this, after the honourable member sums up, we will have to take a vote and decide whether or not the time is appropriate to go ahead with this committee.
There is no living memory of the Tamar River in its natural state, as I understand, and no doubt that is why many believe that it is deteriorating and someone is to blame. Many people still remember an active and viable port that was frequently dredged and was silt free. The long history of siltation of the Tamar is clearly evidenced in the Tamar and North Esk River confluence diagrams of 1833. History also tells us that, by public record, rivers around Launceston were brackish and not fit for human consumption for six months of the year, and that was said in 1824. So, as we all acknowledge, we are dealing with the siltation occurrence, Madam President, that has taken place well before the 1800s and indeed for many centuries before that. The Marine Board, I think, was established in 1857 and started dredging at the turn of the century. The port activities were transferred to Bell Bay in the 1970s. Historical comments cry out mudflats, mudflats everywhere, back in 1911; almost 100 years ago. For eight months of the year the strongest effect of the tides was to bring mud back up towards the town. Invermay, as we know, is built on a swamp.
Mr Dean - And at that time there would not have been too many farming pursuits taking place, or logging industries or forestry, would there?
Mr HALL - No, almost pristine, that is right. I will make the inflammatory comment that the very reason for Launceston's existence is the fact that it has a big hinterland around it.
Mr Parkinson - Move Lonnie to Bridport. Plenty of high tides there.
Mr HALL - Yes, I was mentioning Invermay as a swamp. The silt depths are up to 20 metres I think; that was when they sank the piles for the Aurora Stadium; one tap and they kept going down.
Having said that, there is enormous value in using the knowledge and the technological achievements of the last two centuries to take a good hard look at where we are now and examine the science and the potential outcomes. Recently I had informal discussions with the Launceston City Council and NRM North to bring myself up to date as to what is being done to manage the siltation of the estuary and whether the current direction encompasses effectively the all-important catchment area of the river. I learnt about the TEER program and the coordinated management approach so, Madam President, I will not reiterate those there. The honourable member for Rosevears quite adequately espoused all of those issues.
So we have the catchment modelling with the TEER program, we have the hydromatic modelling with the Launceston City Council and so on, so those are two issues; we have the issue of looking at the Launceston City Council hydromatic model program within the river itself, the basin itself and then we have the other NRM-type issues outside.
If a select committee is to be appointed to examine the desirability and appropriateness of such an authority to oversee the management of Catchments to Coast, the Tamar River estuary and the Esk rivers, it could be argued, as I think proposed by the honourable member, that two of the members of any such select committee appointed to investigate this matter should in fact be from the catchment areas, so the members for Apsley and Western Tiers. The honourable member for Windermere acknowledged the fact that it is a much greater problem than just the area in the City of Launceston and the estuary. He was alluding to the fact that maybe it is from the all-encompassing Esk and Meander catchments that a lot of the problems come in the first place.
Mr Finch - Did you say that is where the problems came from?
Mr HALL - No, 'may'.
It could be argued that with the studies being undertaken concurrently - and there are two studies - as part of the TEER program, let them examine the science, present the findings and map out the challenges that lie ahead before the structures and responsibilities of a statutory authority are investigated. That is being the devil's advocate. Whilst in principle I can see the value in the motion, my gut feeling is perhaps that the honourable member should revisit the issue at a time when the TEER program is drawing to its conclusion, but not at its inception.
Mr Wing - By which time Launceston could have suffered a devastating flood, including possibly the loss of life. That's the risk.
Mr HALL - The honourable member for Launceston, by interjection, makes that point. I would not have thought that this would have taken very long.
Mr Wing - They are estimating one year.
Mr HALL - I am not personally rushing to be on another committee but I can see the honourable member's point about having three members on a committee for control purposes. On the other hand -
Mr Finch - From the same office.
Mr HALL - You could almost argue that it is the Launceston cabal. I just looked up in the dictionary the meaning of 'cabal' and I thought it sounded like a pretty good word.
Mr Wing - Otherwise your comments sounded spontaneous.
Mr HALL - Yes, exactly. It is 'secret, scheming plotters'. Just as a matter of interest, there were five ministers scheming with Charles II in 1692 - Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley and Lauderdale.
Mr Wing - That is the risk of having a committee of five. This would only be three.
Mr HALL - I think I have said my piece. I support this motion in principle. I think it is meritorious in its intent but I just wonder perhaps whether the timing is quite right at the moment, given that we have these other two reports being investigated at this stage, and also the honourable member for Nelson raised the issue of staffing for select committees. In principle I support it; whether or not the timing is quite right, whether or not the resources of the Council are quite right is another matter.
Mr WING - Madam President, The honourable member for Western Tiers asks if the timing is right for this committee. The answer is no, it is not. It is about 40 or 50 years too late. The Launceston area is living on borrowed time as to when the next disastrous flood will occur. In the last 150-plus years there have been three major floods in Launceston. The first was in 1852, the next was in 1864 - I think these dates are approximately correct -
Mr Parkinson - Too much water coming down the Gorge.
Mr Wing - On those occasions, yes. The third flood was in 1929. In the space of 77 years there were three major floods of 1929 proportions. There has not been one since of the 1929 proportions that caused so much disastrous loss. That is 79 years, so three major floods in 77 years and not one of that enormity in the last 79 years. It is not a question of if there will be another major flood, it is a question of when. After 79 years of none to that extent it could happen any time, so northern Tasmania is living on borrowed time. That is the answer to the question of whether this is the right timing for this committee.
It is long overdue for serious consideration to be given to the appointment of a statutory authority. All that this committee will be determining is whether or not a statutory authority should be appointed with direct and sole responsibility for the problems associated with the Tamar estuary and the Esk rivers, not what is causing the siltation problem, how to deal with the siltation problem, what is causing the risk of flooding, what should be done by way of levees to control or prevent the major effects of flooding. It is designed solely to determine whether or not a single statutory authority should be appointed to consider all of these matters to make the determination, to consider the reports, to consider all the available information, to decide what funding is needed and decide what action is needed, because at the moment, Madam President, no-one, no authority, no statutory body, no council is responsible for all of these problems and they are continuing.
The great risk is that when the next major flood occurs the levees are going to fail, there is no doubt about that. They are built on the New Orleans model and look what happened four, five or more years ago when the major flood occurred in New Orleans. Look at the disastrous loss of life, the disastrous loss of property and the damage to the economy of New Orleans and other States of America. That is the risk that is being faced in northern Tasmania daily and we are very fortunate that it has not happened before.
We will be extremely fortunate if it does not happen until after the flood levees are repaired and replaced. Madam President, that is going to take six years on present estimates and we will be very lucky to get through the next six years without a major flood, as we have been lucky to get through the last 79 years. If it happens before the flood levees are repaired, absolute disaster. It will not only affect northern Tasmania, it will affect the whole economy of the State because if $100 million or $150 million or $200 million of damage is done, not to mention the possible loss of life, who is going to pay for that? The State Government and the Federal Government, and those two tiers of government need to realise that and to do something about it. It is very difficult to get them to understand what responsibility they have at the moment and what responsibility they will have when the next major flood occurs.
I realise that we have a number of committees. The Premier has been quite praiseworthy about that. Appropriately, it does impose some stress on our resources but let us not knock back a move which is designed to take control of the situation over which there is no control at the moment. There is little appreciation of the risks that will be involved because, Madam President, if that major flood occurs in the next six years before the flood levees are repaired when there is a possibility of perhaps hastening that process, if there were a statutory body to be appointed, fingers are going to be pointed all over the place accusing different governments, people, authorities of responsibility for that - blaming people.
Let us not have a finger pointed at the Legislative Council for failing to act on this very reasonable proposal because they knocked back the opportunity to have a committee appointed to report on whether or not there should be a statutory authority appointed to deal with all these matters; the risk of flooding, the risk of siltation and the question of the adequacy of water down the Gorge which does not loom as large as the other matters but which is a factor. Let us not have this House being held partly responsible for that through inaction when the problems of the Tamar estuary and Esk rivers is saturated with inaction, saturated with complacency, saturated with the fact that nobody has thought to act to appoint an authority to deal with it.
Madam President, it is a very serious situation and has to be regarded as much more serious than the pressure that will be put on any resources here. The member for Rosevears has explained that he is moving for the appointment of a committee of three which will contain costs, make it easier to overcome the drain on resources in terms of cost and in terms of members being able to find dates to meet. Have a committee of five or six and the problems that have been discussed by the members for Western Tiers and Nelson would be aggravated if there more than three. That is one aspect of this motion which I think is designed to help overcome the problems of the strain on staff and on resources.
Here is an opportunity for this House to play a role that has not been played by either the Federal Government or the State Government in taking some positive action designed to help overcome the dangerous problems that exist in relation to the Tamar Estuary and the Esk rivers. In my view, only a statutory authority appointed by the State Government will have the necessary jurisdiction to make decisions that have effect outside the boundaries of the Launceston City Council. The authorities that the Launceston City Council are appointing under the agreement with the State Government will be limited within the jurisdictions of the Launceston City Council boundaries. They have no control over the causes of the flooding elsewhere. The committee that is sought to be appointed will be looking not to determine the causes of siltation, the causes of the risk of flooding but only to determine the one point, as to whether or not a statutory authority should be appointed. It is not likely to take very long to hear evidence about that and to come up with a report, and I hope members will give it appropriate support.
Mr HARRISS (Huon) - Madam President, I must confess that when I first listened to the debate by the mover and supported by the member for Windermere, I had in my mind that the committee was going to determine and investigate this matter with regard to the siltation problem but as the member for Launceston has made clear that is not the case, it is not what is being moved here in terms of the committee. At the outset I had some concern about that. I have had in my possession for some time a report prepared by Hydro Tasmania in 2003 entitled 'South Esk/Great Lake Water Management Review: Scientific Report on Tamar Siltation'. I would contend that there is at least some body of scientific evidence from studies that have been undertaken into the likely cause of siltation in the Tamar. I thought, why would a select committee need to necessarily visit and try to determine that issue? But that is not the intention of this motion at all. It is to determine the desirability and appropriateness of a single statutory authority. I then listened to the member for Nelson and I had discussed with him earlier the tabulated information which he had there about just how busy members of the Council and staff are because of the current number of -
Sitting suspended from 4 p.m. to 4.30 p.m.
Mr HARRISS - Madam President, I was addressing my mind to the matter of the resourcing for the committee, not so much in terms of members because three members have already indicated that they are ready and willing to rock and roll - and able. So then I was reflecting on the comments from the honourable member for Nelson where he had given some indication at least of some availability of time in October and November and it seems there is very little, if any, but that is not necessarily any reason to address my mind to the rejection of a motion to establish a select committee. Is a select committee desirable in terms of assessing whether a single statutory authority would be appointed? The honourable member for Launceston, I think, prosecuted a very compelling case for the establishment of such a statutory authority because of the argument he put forward in terms of a whole range of things which might be needed for such an authority, if it were to be established to investigate and consider, some of which have been listed here in the motion. If there is such a compelling case, why do we not just move a motion in this House that the Government be encouraged to establish such an authority, with the full weight of the Legislative Council going to the Government of the day and saying that there is a compelling need and these are the reasons developed by this House for the establishment of such an authority? Do we need an inquiry to determine whether such a statutory authority is required? The honourable member for Launceston has just about convinced me because of so many competing factors with regard to a range of issues around the Tamar Estuary and the Esk River -
Mr Wing - Unfortunately, I haven't been able to communicate with ex-Premier Lennon. I haven't been able to get to the current Premier. I haven't been able to get the Treasurer to come to Launceston. I have been waiting since April. It is becoming exasperating and -
Ms Forrest - Do you think this will speed the process up?
Mr Wing - Hopefully it will.
Mr Parkinson - You sound like a dog with a sore foot.
Mr HARRISS - Madam President, through all of that breadth of experience that you would bring to a lobbying process such as that to get the ear of the Premier of the day, successive premiers, the Treasurer, why would the deliberations of and the report of a select committee, if it is so determined that such an authority was required, have any greater force than direct lobbying?
Mr Wing - It would have the evidence of a lot of people who are pressing for this who can't come before the members but can come before a committee, and that can be collated and assessed.
Mr Dean - The State Government has already set up a body under the Local Government Act so the problem we have is explaining now to have them change their minds that there needs to be a lot more information and evidence brought in to identify why this special committee is the one that is necessary.
Mr HARRISS - Yes, but again, though, why would we not just move a forceful motion in this House?
Mr Wing - It wouldn't have the same impact on the Government as a report backed up by evidence. I've been trying for about two years to get government action with a strong case and have had no response.
Mr HARRISS - I am not convinced that it would not have the same weight and force just because you have gathered some evidence to confirm your case. You could document the case here in a debate and go to the Government with the full force of the Legislative Council. This will be a report, if the committee is established, and if the report so recommends, then that will come with the full force of the Legislative Council anyway, saying that this report is endorsed and all sorts of things.
Mr Dean - There would be a lot of strong evidence hopefully coming out of that inquiry to support that, which is difficult to get through now.
Mr HARRISS - Why is it difficult to get through?
Mr Dean - You can refer to it and a bring it forward and so on, but if you've got a committee calling evidence on oath bringing all of these issues forward, I think it just has a lot more strength than it does otherwise.
Mr HARRISS - I am still not convinced because this Council has a lot of force and authority if it properly documents its case to bring forward a recommendation to a government -
Ms Forrest - Through you, Madam President - are you suggesting that a strongly-worded motion of a debate on the Floor of the House, with the Hansard of that debate where evidence is brought forward, will be stronger than a committee report?
Mr HARRISS - It could well be, and it could be more speedy. I am concerned, as is the honourable member for Nelson, at the stretched resources. In my 12-and-a-half years here I have never seen so many select committees, and that is a tribute to this House, as the honourable member for Launceston said at an earlier time. The Premier has been praiseworthy in his comments as to the Legislative Council and its proper scrutiny of government, and many of those select committees have been established because of concerns about government operations which needed to be properly scrutinised, and as a result of that we do have many select committees.
Some members are on six select committees. It is not the members, because three members have indicated that they have the time and the wherewithal to get moving on this committee, but we have the same number of committee secretariat staff available now as we had when I was first elected 12-and-a-half years ago.
Mr Wing - I think we have at least one more. Road Safety has an extra staffer.
Mr HARRISS - Yes, that is Mr Fewkes, a part-time employee for the purpose of the road safety committee, in recognition that the full-time resources of the Council are stretched.
Mr Wing - But there are more than when you first came.
Mr HARRISS - Yes, because of that part-time arrangement. Again, it is in recognition that the other full-time resources are completely stretched, otherwise there would have been no request to the committee chairman to consider Mr Fewkes to provide that service.
Mr Dean - Are you saying that a motion through this House supporting this by us would have just the same impact or effect on the Government as a select committee of inquiry, if it did get up, with the sworn evidence and recommendations coming from that and going to the Government?
Mr HARRISS - My judgment is yes.
Mr Dean - What about the motion that was passed last year by this House for an action to be taken but the Government ignored it and just threw it away?
Mr HARRISS - Yes and, of course, that is their prerogative. If a select committee is established and if the select committee recommends the establishment of a statutory authority to investigate a whole range of things, the Government can still ignore the recommendations of the select committee.
Mr Dean - They could, but it could be difficult for them to ignore evidence obtained from very professional people and bodies and so on.
Mr HARRISS - No. The honourable member for Windermere would be well aware that there have been many select committees in the past which have drawn a range of recommendations based upon solid evidence, strong supporting documentation and yet governments of the day, Liberal or Labor, because it might not suit their political agenda, will ignore the recommendations.
Mr Wing - They would not be likely to take much notice of a motion passed by this House if that was so.
Mr HARRISS - They may not be of a mind to take any notice of the recommendations of a select committee, notwithstanding the weight of evidence which might come before the committee.
Mr Wing - But there would be more weight behind the report than there would be just with a motion which is so easily ignored.
Mr HARRISS - It may not affect the outcome.
Mr Wing - The committee would attract publicity that focuses attention on it. That puts pressure on the Government, and if the ongoing evidence is consistent, it must have a much greater effect. We need to be making available whatever resources are necessary because this can be a matter of life or death.
Madam PRESIDENT - Order. The honourable member has the Floor and we are getting into a debate rather than just an exchange. The member can complete his contribution and if there are no other speakers, then I am sure the mover of the motion will, with assistance, wind this process up.
Mr HARRISS - Madam President, the honourable member for Launceston indicates that it would be far more difficult for the Government of the day to reject any recommendations which might flow from a strong body of evidence. The honourable member for Launceston knows better than anybody, after experience with other select committees and the like, if it is not the will of the Government, for whatever reason, it can just be a dust gatherer. I understand what you say. I just raise it as an issue because resources are stretched. I do not think there is any dispute about that. Any casual analysis of what is going on around this place now, right at this point in time, would confirm that our resources are stretched. People are working around the clock and we do have the support in this place of some extremely valuable people, but resources are stretched.
Mr Dean - Should that in itself stop a select committee inquiring into a very important matter?
Mr HARRISS - No, but should the select committee be given ventilation now, right at this time or should we move to adjourn the debate or should the mover of the motion consider withdrawing his motion so as not to lose the opportunity for the establishment of a select committee in this session of the Parliament? If the motion is lost, he loses the opportunity to revisit the motion during this session of the Parliament.
Mr Dean - But if the motion gets up it can be parked, as the member for Nelson referred to before, and brought on when one is completed.
Mr HARRISS - That is true, but why would you want to establish a select committee of inquiry and have it parked and do nothing for a lengthy period?
Mr Wing - It is not an appropriate committee to be used to test the situation with the resources. Why this one when loss of life could be at stake?
Mr HARRISS - I heard that comment when you made your contribution as well. Not only that, substantial damage to property in the event that a catastrophe occurs. The honourable member for Launceston seems to be suggesting that if the motion is in the affirmative today the committee needs to get moving tomorrow.
Mr Wing - I would hope that's possible.
Mr HARRISS - I hope the honourable member for Launceston acknowledges that resources are stretched. He would know because of Mr Fewkes' service being offered to the committee on road safety.
Mr Wing - I have, but I can't overlook the extreme danger involved in the continued delay in this matter.
Ms Forrest - Through you, Madam President - the comment was made that if it is not the will of the Government they can totally ignore a committee report. They could do likewise with a motion. If I understand you correctly, your point is that a motion could be put on the Notice Paper this week, it could be dealt with next sitting and effectively then progress to the Government to test their reaction, as opposed to going through a select committee process that by its very nature will take longer, and particularly with these stretched resources. They take some time to get the Government's response.
Mr HARRISS - Absolutely. I was going to go down that very track in response to the honourable member for Launceston's interjection. Because of the urgency of this, because of his genuine and legitimate concern about the catastrophic effects on property damage, the possibility of loss of multiple lives in the event of such a catastrophe down the Tamar, I would see there is a more urgent need to get on with it at our very next sitting and pass a forceful motion through this Chamber. I will be interested to hear what the honourable Leader has to say about that as a proposition. He may, on behalf of the Government, be able to tell us before we conclude this debate today that the Government is sympathetic to the notion of the establishment of a statutory authority, notwithstanding that the honourable member for Launceston by a long period of process has tried to convince successive premiers, even get to see the premiers and treasurers about such an important issue. That being the case, if the honourable Leader can give some comfort to the Council along those lines, that may be a much more speedy and appropriate proposal. The honourable member for Rosevears, in his genuine intent for a proper analysis of this, would have had his ends achieved in a much shorter time and get exactly the same outcome. Then the motion could well be all of this, so that the establishment of a statutory authority does what this motion sets out. You could go even further than that, you would not need to build in any other matters incidental thereto. You would quantify exactly what it was that the statutory authority would be required to take consideration of.
As I said, with regard to the technical and scientific matters regarding siltation, this is but one document. Just before the resumption of this session, I was discussing with the honourable member for Rosevears - and I had not extended to him the courtesy of a conversation about it before, but as the debate has unfolded today I have been thinking that maybe an adjournment of the debate would be appropriate so that you do not lose the motion. I had not even thought until I am standing here listening to interjections that maybe a motion of this Council would be much more speedy, much more appropriate, get the job done, get the Government's attention focused. The honourable member for Launceston says that a select committee gathers attention in the media and so on. If we do it right in terms of a debate here and we all get onto the ball about it you will get every bit as much media attention, focus the attention of the Government, and if they choose in the face of the force of such a motion to continue to put their head in the silt then the things about which the member for Launceston speaks would be at their peril.
Mr Parkinson - It sounds like a smokescreen to me.
Mr HARRISS - I have been learning from others during the week, particularly yourself. So, Madam President, I will not go through the discourteous process of moving that the debate stand adjourned but depending on what the honourable Leader says, the mover of the motion, the member for Rosevears, may well consider that he withdraw the motion but that it be brought back on speedily if there is time, or indeed that we just simply have to find some more resources.
It is a dilemma. I understand the gravity of the issue and the potential problem but why have we not done something in terms of a strong motion at an earlier time? We have the resources in this place to move those kinds of motions. So the member for Launceston has a genuine concern. I hear that, but it is not a concern that has just arisen today. It is not something that is going to be solved by the deliberations of a select committee. Let us get on with it and tell the Government to establish the authority.
So, Madam President, I am not sure. I support the principle of what this motion is all about, to inquire into whether there ought be a statutory authority. That is the principle. Is there a better way of doing it? I think there may be and so I do not know that I particularly want to vote against the motion but there are a couple of other options that I have mentioned. So at this stage I am not voting one way or the other. I agree with the principle but I am not sure whether I agree with the establishment of the committee right now.
Mr PARKINSON (Hobart - Leader of Government Business in the Legislative Council) - I am amazed at some of those comments. Having been in this place for 14 years and served on numerous select committees and standing committees, I never thought I would hear a long-serving member of this Chamber stand up and suggest that a motion, which is probably over in one day, has more force than a select committee of inquiry and the recommendations that follow from it. I am simply assuming that the honourable member for Huon in saying that is thinking on his feet and has not thought that issue through and is simply offering that as a suggestion as a way of relieving the pressure that he sees the committee process is being subjected to.
Mr Harriss - Why wouldn't such a motion come with that sort of force?
Mr PARKINSON - Just in relation to relieving that pressure, Madam President, before I get on to the matters here, I can simply indicate to members that I intend to offer myself in the near future to serve on committees, but that will be a matter that members can consider when I do it. I will be sending a note around.
However, I can indicate in relation to this motion the Government does support the setting up of this select committee. A lot has been happening in relation to this already however I am sure the work that the committee will perform will be complimentary and suggest pathways towards solving the problems that the committee will be looking at. As those who proposed to be part of this committee have already said, this is a pressing problem. Everybody appreciates the pressing nature of the issue there in the Tamar estuary but my advice indicates that the Tamar Estuary and Esk Rivers program, TEER, is already under way and addresses the issues proposed in the motion. The TEER program is a voluntary regional partnership modelled on the highly successful and respected Derwent Estuary program. The TEER program is working in a coordinated and collaborative manner to protect and enhance the health of the Tamar catchment and the estuary by adopting a catchment to coast or integrated catchment management approach. It aims to guide solutions and strategic investment in activities that protect, maintain and enhance the Tamar and Esk rivers.
Funding to employ a coordinator for the first two years of the program and to produce the updated state of the Tamar report was provided through the Department of Environment, Parks, Heritage and the Arts - $165 000. The recent budget provided an additional $250 000 to the program. Natural Resource Management, NRM North, the Launceston City Council and other key partners in TEER are working closely together to investigate the causes of siltation in the Tamar Basin and propose management options to address this issue. Other members of TEER include West Tamar Council, George Town Council, Meander Valley Council, Hydro Tasmania and the Department of Environment, Parks, Heritage and Arts, Department of Primary Industries and Water, and the Department of Health and Human Services.
The TEER program is developing a sediment model and the movement of sediments in the Tamar catchment. This scientific study aims to quantify the amount and origin of sediment entering the Tamar estuary and will link in with other sediment studies being carried out by Launceston City Council. The TEER program was launched and the State of the Tamar Estuary Report 2008 released on 11 July 2008. The report reviews environmental data for the Tamar estuary from 1997 to 2005.
This includes information on pollution sources, water and sediment quality, sedimentation issues, seafood safety, habitat, biodiversity, introduced marine pests and issues in relation to the risk of flooding. Importantly the report shows that, despite the impacts on the river, it is in relatively good condition when compared to other estuaries in Australia surrounded by similar levels of urban development. The Tamar estuary Management Plan 2008 was also released on 11 July 2008.
It consolidates existing information from past technical reports, research, surveys and studies to provide a comprehensive list of priority management actions to address environmental problems facing the estuary. Recommendations in the Tamar Estuary Management Plan 2008 include the establishment of a whole of Tamar Estuary monitoring program and a review of the current bacteriological monitoring to assess the effect of sewage and other effluent on water quality and the overall health of the estuary. This will help target where improvements to water and sewerage infrastructure are needed and to identify other pollutant sources.
A project to quantify water flow and turbidity and the amount of sediment and nutrients being transported in the river systems during flood events is also being addressed by the TEER program. The TEER program includes a project to model the effect of various land uses on sediment and nutrient transport and loads in river systems in the Tamar catchment. Another model commissioned by the Department of Primary Industries and Water is being developed specifically to model the effects of forestry activity in relation to catchment water yield. The NRM North model will look at how to integrate these two models.
On 7 August 2008 TEER held its vision setting workshop which one of the honourable members has referred to, I think the mover, in which a broad agenda for the future collaborative management of the Tamar catchment and estuary was developed. My advice indicates that there was a strong response at the workshop to the possibility of a single authority but that it was not the only view. I understand that in the terms of the present situation and future long-term directions the group at the workshop identified the integration of governance, planning and management as being of high priority. Also of high priority were the issues of renewable energy, education, awareness and community involvement. The workshop participants identified community engagement and involvement as one of the main drivers of their choice for long-term directions. The TEER steering committee are planning to meet next week on 7 October to finalise the outputs from their vision setting workshop. One of the principles of the TEER program will be to maintain flexibility to incorporate other key partners as required in the future. This may include representation from the new water and sewerage authority that has been established.
Madam President, there will be a wealth of information already that the committee will be able to take in and use in its investigations and its endeavours. I can indicate, as I did earlier, that the Government supports the motion.
Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Thanks very much to the Government for their indication of support of this motion. The Leader just mentioned the workshop that was held by TEER which I alluded to in my speech as well and I think that was a strong indication that the people who were gathered there, the 50 community leaders who are intrinsic to the issues of the Tamar estuary, were all in agreement about the single authority but also mightily impressed with the work of TEER and the way it has been established and its forensic examination of the issues. The Leader has mentioned some issues that were discussed.
This has given me great confidence in respect of our handling of this issue. As the member for Launceston has mentioned and the member for Windermere would have an understanding of it as I do, we in the north of the State have been more or less floundering around waiting for something positive, those initiatives. Particularly, I suppose we were looking to UTRIA, to the council, to the Government, to Parks and Wildlife, to MAST, the Bell Bay port authority, so we are waiting for somebody to pull all these ideas and people and organisations together. At last TEER has been developed with NRM and it seems to be giving us that sense of direction into the future and a way forward with all the issues, not just the ones that we have mentioned.
There are environmental issues and we need to look at the pollution of the Tamar River, particularly from my electorate. I am prepared to say that we have issues there that all need to be considered and this is where the TEER program is going to be so important. And as I mentioned I received a letter from Scott Gadd who has the impression too that the work of TEER can be enhanced by the establishment of this single statutory authority to manage the issues, priorities and funding into the future.
I appreciate honourable members' contribution to the debate, thank you very much, and the guidance that I have been given, as well as the issues that have come through parts of the debate. The member for Huon brought up the issue of the motion as an alternative way of getting through this process. I will not go too much down that path, but only say that I am a little bit disappointed. I have had this motion on the Notice Paper for quite some time, the first motion and the variation was introduced last Friday into the House but I have had no contact from anybody in respect of the pressure of resourcing or other opinions that people might have.
I am now hearing this debate unfold on the Floor of Parliament, and if that advice was available I would have hoped that it might have come a little bit earlier rather than at the eleventh hour. However, I did appreciate the debate that ensued. It gives me more of an insight into the problems that are occurring. I certainly did not want to get ahead of myself in thinking that this is going to get a guernsey, this is going to get up so I will go and have a talk to the Clerk, I will have a talk to the Table officers and we will see how we can fund this. To me, that is presumptuous and it would have been very silly of me to have done that, to have made investigations about what happens if this committee gets up. It would be the same as the Launceston Football Club situation and the Glenorchy Football Club. We are not going to make investigations about how we are going to fund this, finance it, how we are going to get down there and who is going to pay for it because we have not won the grand final. I think it is just another situation of getting ahead of yourself and not going through the due process.
Mr Martin - You did not expect to win.
Mr FINCH - No, that is right, absolutely not. People would accuse us of arrogance but there was no assumption that we were going to win that game. As you can see, we had to fight it out to the very last minute. As the siren went we were seven points in front. Do not worry, we knew well and truly that we had won but then of course Adam Derbyshire scored another goal.
Mr Martin - Obviously, you could not beat Glenorchy.
Mr FINCH - Well, that seems to be what has transpired. It seems to be the evidence that is there for all of the Glenorchy people to see that Launceston wanted to find some excuses. Is that right? Is that the way it is being read down here?
Mr Martin - Absolutely.
Mr FINCH - Yes, okay.
Mr Dean - The fact is you did not need a training run right at the end of the season.
Mr FINCH - No, that is right but the fact is - sorry, we are digressing, Madam President. I can see you bristling over there. I can sense that.
Madam PRESIDENT - Particularly when Ulverstone were the ones that lost by the seven points.
Mr FINCH - No, it was about 13, I think. Derbyshire kicked a goal after the siren.
Mr Wilkinson - Let us not let this debate silt up. Keep it flowing.
Mr FINCH - We have had an elegant sufficiency of that.
As I say, I would wait until the parliamentary process has taken place, that the motion has been given the tick and then make the investigation as to where we stand. I did, in an interjection with the member for Nelson, make the suggestion that I would feel that the discussions would then take place once the motion is agreed to, that we then discuss with the administration executive of the Legislative Council whether we need to put time constraints, whether there needs to be jigging of the schedule and that resources are going to be placed in a certain way. Hopefully if this motion gets up, that is what will take place. The accommodation of understanding comes from a discussion that ensued before about the drawing of members together to form these committees, to be part of these committees and getting that efficaciously drawn together. I heard that debate and that was why, in reconsidering the motion, I brought it down from five members to three. I had invited the member for Western Tiers to be on the committee because the -
Mr Hall - We were talking about that yesterday.
Mr FINCH - catchment areas are mainly represented by his electorate. Also, I spoke with our new Minister for Planning because I was desirous of having somebody from the Government on the committee and she was agreeable to come on that committee, so those were the five. I know the member for Apsley is expressing some disappointment at not being considered or invited, but I would have thought that five on a committee is an elegant sufficiency and I had run out of spaces.
The point is, in reconsideration I felt that the Minister for Planning has other things on her mind and I am not sure of the serving on committees of the government members. Although, it is interesting, because I am getting indications - and we heard it from the Leader too that he is prepared or looking at being prepared to serve on committees and I also drew that same response from the Minister for Planning in respect of the Community Development Committee. It is not a fait accompli that she will remove herself from that committee. That is an interesting situation.
Getting back to my original point, as I am prompted by the Chair with the stare from over the top of her glasses, that was the thinking behind reducing the number of members to three. As I stated in my first speech, the three of us have responsibility for the major part where the problems are concerned, we are all in the same building, our offices are down the corridor, the cabal is going to be far easier to manage in respect of arranging meetings. It is just a matter of our administration and our secretariat and, if approved, we can enter into discussions about these but I am still not getting ahead of myself.
Mr Martin - Did you just say that you were the three members who were responsible for the problem?
Mr FINCH - Sorry, no - did I suggest that? Let me go back and clarify that we three members have the electorates that share those issues around the Tamar estuary.
Ms Forrest - Doesn't the electorate of Rosevears have more of the river than anybody else?
Mr FINCH - I do not want to claim it all for my electorate; I might cop all the blame.
I think members have an understanding that never before in history have the Tamar estuary and our catchment areas been managed as a whole. Central to this inquiry is to get that statutory authority to do just that. I have the signal from TEER that a single statutory authority is an organisation under which it could function.
I think the member for Western Tiers recommended that we wait. 'There are two reports being done, let us wait'. Unfortunately what we have been doing since 1806 is waiting for someone to take control and waiting for the issue to be investigated. As I say, we three members have been waiting for somebody to do something about it. Those reports will be issued and will become part of the tools of trade of the single statutory authority. They will have that information to work with.
Mr Dean - You might remember on the previous motion that the honourable minister indicated that there is also a review of the planning process taking place at the moment as well.
Mr FINCH - My people in my electorate, and I am sure those of other members in northern Tasmania, would be screaming out, 'Why are we waiting?' That is what we have heard. I know the member for Launceston has been drawn into meeting after meeting, and it is the same with me. I think I have made the points I need to make. I thank you, members, and I believe that the establishment of this proposed inquiry is the next logical step after the establishment of TEER.
Motion agreed to.