GREENS MOTION: Disallowance of Flinders Chase Tourist Accommodation Regulations

Today Mark moved to disallow Regulations concerning the Flinders Chase Tourist Accommodation made on 21 January 2021 that are designed to fast track and appeal-proof major private tourism developments valued at over $1 million inside Flinders Chase National Park on Kangaroo Island. Under the Regulations, other tourism development outside the park can also be fast tracked.


The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: I move: That the regulations under the Development Act 1993 concerning the Flinders Chase Tourist Accommodation, made on 21 January 2021 and laid on the table of this council on 2 February 2021, be disallowed.

On 21 January, the government published amendments in the Government Gazette to both the Development Regulations and the Native Vegetation Regulations. These amendments operate immediately and they are designed to fast track and appeal-proof major private tourism developments valued at over $1 million inside Flinders Chase National Park on Kangaroo Island. Under the regulations, other tourism development outside the park can also be fast tracked.

The new regulations work by exempting any development 'for the purpose of tourism' from any proper scrutiny or assessment. Under these new regulations there will be, firstly, no requirement to assess the merits of the development against the local planning scheme, also known as the Development Plan for Kangaroo Island. The only component of development approval that is required is in relation to building rules consent, not the appropriateness of the development for the location.

For those who understand the finer points of planning law, I refer you to schedule 1A of the Development Regulations. The heading is 'Development that does not require development plan consent'. When you look at that list, you find things that you would expect to find: a carport, a verandah, a shade sail, a water tank, solar panels on the roof. Then you work down the list to Flinders Chase National Park Tourism Development worth more than $1 million. They have bundled with carports and solar panels and pergolas, massive private tourism developments inside one of our most important national parks. That is what these regulations do.

Secondly, the effective approval of these tourism developments has been delegated to a public servant who is answerable to the minister, and that is the Coordinator-General. The person currently holding that role is Ms Caroline Mealor, the CE of the Attorney-General's Department. I do not believe I have met Ms Mealor so I do not know if she has any qualifications or experience in the assessment of development applications generally, or any expertise about the ecology or management of national parks.

Under regulation 9, it just says that if a Flinders Chase National Park tourism development has been approved by the Coordinator-General it does not need development planning consent, so it does not have to be consistent with the planning scheme.

Thirdly, what the regulations do is say that there is no requirement to consult any other agencies, bodies or experts in relation to the development. So none of the usual referrals to expert agencies and bodies apply. For example, if it were a development on the coast, you do not need to talk to the Coast Protection Board. Fourth, there is no requirement to consult the local council.

Fifth, there is no public consultation at all and no right of comment, no right of representation and no right of appeal. As members would know, the only consultation ever undertaken is in relation to planning consent, and if planning consent is not required there will not be any public consultation. The public are not allowed to comment on building matters. Sixth, even when it comes to building matters that is likely to be signed off by a private certifier. This is how we manage one of our most important public national parks.

My understanding of the government's rationale for these regulations is that they say, 'Well, it gives effect to an agreement or settlement that has been reached between the Australian Walking Company and the conservationists who challenged various approvals in the Supreme Court.' I am not part of that court case, although I have strongly supported it, so I do not know for sure whether there is any agreement or settlement that has been reached.

If there has been, I sincerely hope it reflects the campaign objective of the Public Parks NOT Private Playgrounds campaign, which is to get all development back onto the track. In other words, low impact development that is close to the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail, not kilometres away and requiring new roads and tracks to be cut through the wilderness.

This fight has always been about the location and scale of infrastructure and how it will be managed in the public interest in a public national park. However, even if it is the case that the Australian Walking Company can convince its critics that it can more sensitively deliver its project, these regulations are still a massive overreach, because they are not just about the Australian Walking Company and the development along the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail. They relate to all future tourism developments anywhere in Flinders Chase National Park, provided they are worth more than $1 million.

The legitimate fear in the conservation community and, I think, for the public at large, is, 'What will they do next? What is the next monstrosity? Will it be Club Med Flinders Chase, a high-rise hotel with golf course and spa?' In fact, the possibilities for degradation and destruction are nearly endless. These regulations are not about just one project, they are about all future unknown projects as well.

I believe this government's agenda of privatising our national parks has reached a new low with these appalling regulations. The Marshall government is going to extraordinary lengths to ensure that nobody can stand in the way of their dream of allowing private developers into our most hallowed and significant wild places. It is a very sneaky sleight of hand for the government to apply regulations designed for insignificant backyard pergolas and shade sails to multimillion dollar tourist developments in one of our most important national parks.

Under these new laws, the government will not require developers to obtain planning consent for any tourism-related developments in Flinders Chase. Whether it is a group of small cabins in the bush or a major hotel resort, if the government likes it that is enough. These new laws deny any right of public participation and they ensure that no environmental experts will be consulted. They are anti-environmental and undemocratic. It is an appalling way to manage our national parks, and these regulations should be disallowed.