Tuesday 19 November 2019
Hansard of the Legislative Couoncil

Proposed Tamar Estuary and Esk Rivers Statutory Authority


[11.35 a.m.]
Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, back in 2009 a select committee under my chairmanship and comprising the member for Windermere and former President Don Wing looked into the management of the Tamar Estuary and the Esk River.  The committee found there was a lack of an adequate management structure and defined responsibilities.  The management structure was poorly funded and its fragmentation did not make the best use of existing funds.

The committee further found that the imprecision and inadequacies of the current management structure had contributed to the parlous state of the Tamar Estuary and the Esk River systems, especially the significant and environmentally damaging siltation problem and defectiveness of flood mitigation infrastructure in Launceston.

The main recommendation of the committee was that the Tasmanian government establish a statutory authority to manage the Tamar Estuary and Esk River and their catchments and be responsible for the environmental management, flood mitigation and health of all waterways within these catchments.

The committee recommended that -

  • initial funding to establish the authority come from the state government, with other appropriate and available resources of funding, including local and federal governments; and that

  • the authority be required to prepare a catchment management plan within 12 months and provide an annual report to parliament. 

In the year of the committee inquiry, a body known as Tamar Estuary and Esk Rivers - TEER - was set up.  Its chair, Scott Gadd, wrote to me saying -

... 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 ...

It was clear from written submissions and verbal evidence that there was strong and widespread support for that single statutory authority.  The committee's work was thorough, thanks very much to the member for Windermere and Mr Don Wing.  We saw excellent examples of catchment management in Victoria and Queensland, and submissions to us were of the highest quality.  If I recall, member for Windermere, there were something like 82 submissions.

Mr Dean - It was a huge number.

Mr FINCH - I think 80 were in support and only two were negative. 

What was the result?  Nothing happened.  The then government put forward a number of arguments against an authority, including cost - although I found this argument about costing very fuzzy.  There was government inaction in 2009, but some problems just don't go away. 

The Launceston Chamber of Commerce made a recent call over the management of the Tamar catchment.

Wait for it, Mr President, it called for a Tamar Estuary and Esk rivers statutory authority.  I will quote from a recent Launceston Chamber of Commerce newsletter -

The Chamber President Tim Holder, in his speech to the Business Excellence Awards on Saturday night, called for the establishment of a Tamar River Authority to coordinate and compel the efforts to remediate the estuary.  This sentiment was first raised in 2009 in a Legislative Council Select Committee Report on the River.  The Executive Summary of that report notes:  '...  the lack of effective river management as a result of the large number of organisations with some involvement in it, but none with overall responsibility.'

The Chamber is of the strong view that there needs to be a triple bottom line approach to remediate in the Tamar (environmental, social and Economic) and that the most effective way to deliver the results that the northern community expect is for the formation of a Tamar River Authority.

The chamber has a good memory, Mr President. 

It is time for the present Government to have a very close look at that 2009 report.