Thursday 19 September 2013


Hansard of the Legislative Council







Mr  FINCH  (Rosevears) - Mr President, you could be forgiven for believing that 'stagnation' is the appropriate word to describe a large part of the Tasmanian economy and particularly in the development sector. But things are happening - almost below the surface - because of the determination of people with a vision, and despite the barriers to development, including the state government's planning authority. Getting a development up in Tasmania can be a long, hard slog.


I would like to detail the trials and tribulations besetting one visionary developer in my electorate. Michael Dean first thought of an ecotourism resort at Craggy Ridge on the West Tamar 22 years ago. At the time, Tourism Tasmania called the region from the Tamar Valley east to Bridport in the member for Apsley's electorate 'the lost quarter' as there was little there to attract people to visit or to stay.


But that has changed in the past 22 years, especially with the Tamar Valley Wine Route, we have beautiful food in the valley, we have Barnbougle and Lost Farm, we have the Beaconsfield mining museum and other infrastructure attractions.


Ms Rattray - And the member for Apsley's electorate office.


Mr FINCH - That is right. Michael Dean's vision has not yet become a reality. Four years ago, the land he had been seeking for 18 years came on the market and he bought it as well as various surrounding properties to give himself a buffer zone. The investment will be at least $103 million and the result will be an eco-tourism development covering 160 acres on a plateau with magnificent views near Legana. It is adjacent to Grindelwald on that same hilltop. There is remnant rainforest with large areas of Blackwoods. There will be a nature reserve and an enclosure for endangered live animals. There will be a tree-house complex for children, a series of lakes and a wetland, a three-storey lodge with 25 rooms, two restaurants, conference rooms, a public bar and about 90 accommodation cabins. There will be 5 kilometres of nature trails. The list goes on. It is an absolutely massive project.


In September 2010, Michael Dean assembled a team of experts which went about methodically working up the idea which would become the original development application document. In his own words, this is what he was after:


My starting brief was use only the best experts, employ only the best people, engage only the best qualified and experienced people in their respective fields. Aim only for the best world-class development, both in design and practice. It must be utterly eco-sustainable and have community support and play on Tassie's strengths, like our amazing wilderness, our clean environment and friendly people.


Mr Dean had numerous meetings with the West Tamar Council and the development application was submitted in December 2011. But then the new state planning reforms got in the way. Then the Craggy Ridge proposal became the centre of an argument. I will let Michael Dean explain:


We were always told the same never-ending thing; that is, the state government was not doing their job, had not resourced their departments properly and was unfairly placing extra demands on the local councils. The government said it was all the council's fault as they had not stuck to their northern regional strategy, which was supposed to be like to like.


Ultimately the planning authority rejected the West Tamar Council's new planning scheme, which contained the Craggy Ridge Special Purpose Zone. This went on and on and on. As for Michael Dean, he estimates that this part of the process has cost him $4 million. At this stage Mr Dean launched a newspaper letter campaign and he pointed out that Craggy Ridge Development would employ 750, directly and indirectly, in the construction phase, with 150 full-time jobs when completed. He argued the development would transform the entire Launceston/Tamar Valley area, providing the catalyst for creating thousands of new jobs and small business enterprise opportunities.


The letters, fortunately, led to an onsite meeting with the Planning Minister, Bryan Green, and Mr Dean is now looking forward to having planning approval in the next six to eight weeks. To highlight, you can do it in Tasmania but, my goodness, it can be very, very hard.