WRAP - No prison in Westbury
WRAP media release - 8 December 2020

Government's ignorance of environmental assessments laid bare

The Government's complete ignorance of, or disregard for, the legal implications associated with the natural values of the Westbury Reserve have been laid bare.

In responses to questions put to Minister Archer by Concerned Residents Opposed to the Westbury Prison Site, the Department of Justice has admitted that it intended to commence geotechnical drilling on the reserve on 12th October 2020 but the Federal Government stepped in.

"The Department of Justice has essentially admitted that the Federal Government brought the drilling to a halt because [DoJ] had not taken the essential self-assessment process required under the Environmental Protection Biodiversity Act 1999.

Under the EPBC Act, any developer on land which is habitat for protected species needs to undertake self-assessment before they take any action on site which has potential to impact on those species.

The drilling clearly had potential to impact on the wedge-tail eagle and DoJ ought to have known this needed self-assessment under the EPBC Act. Minister Archer was either unaware of this legal prerequisite, or she did not care about it. Minister Jaensch's judgment is also called into question. How could his Department issue a works permit allowing the drilling to proceed without this essential requirement having been met?

The requirement to self-assess in such circumstances is rudimentary and well known. It's Property Development 101. Yet the chief law officer in Tasmania appears to have been unaware of it. The alternative, that she did not care about it or was reckless about it, is unpalatable to say the least.

Someone in the community reported this failing to the Federal Government and the proposed drilling then came to a shuddering halt.

This is an embarrassment for the Department of Justice and for Elise Archer. It's also disgraceful for Minister Jaensch.

This Government is incapable of picking the right horse for the course. They will always be plagued with delay owing to their own incompetence."

Linda Poulton
Spokesperson, WRAP Inc


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