page header news22

Lake Malbena appeal underway

Lake Malbena

An appeal to get a controversial tourism project at Lake Malbena off the ground is underway.

The facility would see 30 trips a year of six guests and two guides, flown in and out of Tasmania's Wilderness Heritage area by helicopter.

But the luxury camp on Hall's Island was rejected at a firey Central Highlands Council meeting in February.

The developer Wild Drake hasn't given up though, appealing that decision at a tribunal in Hobart today, expected to run all week.

The group has some powerful friends on its side, including state Attorney General Elise Archer.

Meanwhile Tasmania's peak tourism body has taken a swipe at the Wilderness Society for its involvement.

The conservation group is among a chorus of opposition to the Hall's Island proposal.

"Let's call it out, the Wilderness Society is using this a fundraising exercise for their own membership so I'm not sure if rolling out the Wilderness Society is any more impartial in this debate than rolling me out," Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania CEO Luke Martin said this morning. 

"That's the importance of the appeals process - it takes out a lot of that value judgement, a lot of that opinion making and indeed different agendas, and the Wilderness Society's agenda is no tourism in the World Heritage Area."

But the organisation has rejected that suggestion.

"That's categorically incorrect. We're trying to raise funds to pay for this case, we're not fundraising off it," TWS Acting Campaign Manager Tom Allen said.  

He's describing it as a David and Goliath battle. 

"We're absolutely on a shoestring budget and the proponent Wild Drake has had a huge amount of support from the state government. They've been helped all along by the supposedly 'neutral' Parks and Wildlife Service, while at the same time the Attorney General's saying this whole process shouldn't apply. It really beggars belief. It's cynical and cross eyed that you've got both arms of government saying completely different things at the same time, while also supporting the proponent. It really stretches the bounds of ethics I think."   

"It's important also to remember this isn't some sort of a 'greenie' thing, this is apolitical but it's also across the spectrum. I can tell you a lot of the people most strongly opposed are rural, Liberal voters. I know, because I've spoken to them regularly," Mr Allen said.

However, the state's Tourism Industry Council doesn't agree.

"It's a high end, very immersive experience. It's a small number of visitors to a pretty spectacular part of Tasmania and frankly, that's the way our tourism needs to evolve. We need to be a place that puts a high value premium on these extraordinary natural environments and this project tries to do that," Mr Martin said.  

Members of the public are allowed to attend the hearings this week, but it's expected to be standing room only.


Image: Richard Webb