Tasmania's State of the Environment report is overdue and last seen 13 years ago. So where is it?

When the national State of the Environment report was released a fortnight ago – an important report that told “a story of crisis and decline”, according to federal minister Tanya Plibersek – it had been delayed by around six months.

Specifically for Tasmania, the report highlighted the pressures of climate change, including abrupt changes in ecological systems, affecting things like giant kelp forests, agriculture and the increasing frequency of extreme weather events, and also touched on the impact of humans on the endangered Tasmanian devil.

But its delayed release after it was handed to the Morrison government in December last year is nothing on the Tasmanian State of the Environment report, which was last seen 13 years ago — missing its last two reports, in 2014 and 2019.

That is despite legislation (the State Policies and Projects Act 1993) stating the Tasmanian Planning Commission must produce a report every five years.

The Act says the report should cover the condition of the environment, trends and changes in the environment, the achievement of resource management objectives, and recommendations for future environmental management.

The Planning Minister should then present it to parliament within a speedy 15 days.

So where is it?

We’ve done a deep dive to try to answer that question.

The most recent report was in 2009, which said the Tasmanian Planning Commission’s top priority over the next five years was to “improve the standard of land use planning and to ensure that Tasmania’s sustainable development objectives are furthered as far as possible”.

“This SOE Report is a first step to facilitate that change without losing our baseline environmental performance data and reporting framework,” it said.

“This will be achieved through a number of mechanisms including performing its statutory roles and functions effectively and efficiently in accordance with section 29 of the State Policies and Projects Act 1993 and the Tasmanian Planning Commission Act 1997.”

So, basically: future reports were considered important. However, since then, there has been radio silence.

Tarkine forest, Tasmania, November 2018.
Tasmania’s environment is world-renowned.(ABC News: Peta Carlyon)

RTI documents reveal ‘no material progress has been made’

The Australia Institute Tasmania has been on the case, submitting a Right to Information (RTI) request.

Institute director Eloise Carr said the RTI documents showed a “complete disregard for the law by the Tasmanian Planning Commission and a lack of oversight by the government”.

“They reveal that no material progress has been made towards the preparation of a State of the Environment report and that the Planning Commission as statutory authority appears to have made a decision not to comply with the law, which requires it to produce these reports every five years,” she said.

“The Minister for Planning, who is responsible for receiving the State of the Environment Reports, has not intervened. The Department of Justice, which has responsibility for administering the Tasmanian Planning Commission has not intervened.

“The Environment Minister appears to have been absolved from his responsibilities to the environment.”

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