Tasmania’s Auditor-General has raised questions over the independence of a panel formed to assess development proposals in the state’s sensitive environmental areas.
An audit which examined effectiveness of the government’s expressions of interest process for commercial developments in the state’s national parks and reserves was released on Tuesday.
Auditor-General Rod Whitehead said it found the process criteria and guiding principles surrounding the process were fundamentally sound.
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He said the processes were adequately administered, but the Parks and Wildlife Service’s document management system needed improvement.
Mr Whitehead said advice from the Solicitor-General should be sought during the EOI process.
He said the assessment panel consisted only of government agency officers since the departure of an independent member and broader community representation would be beneficial.
Mr Whitehead said community consultation was conducted primarily by development proponents.
“Obtaining a wider set of views might be beneficial in gaining a more complete view in assessing the proposals,” he said.
“No evidence was found to suggest recommendations made to the minister regarding proposals were adversely affected by the constitution of the assessment panel or quality of consultation”
Mr Whitehead made 10 recommendations to improve the effectiveness of the EOI and reserve activity assessment processes.
Greens leader Cassy O’Connor said the report confirmed the EOI process was driven by developers.
“Of 22 reserve activity assessments the Auditor General examined, only two had full documentation,” she said.
“A number of EOI proposals with incomplete documents and financial details were given high scores by the assessment panel.
“This would not be acceptable in a proper planning process.”
State Growth Minister Michael Ferguson said the report found there was no evidence to support allegations of undue secrecy.
“The Auditor-General’s report into the Tasmanian Government’s expressions of interest process has found it has been administered effectively, consistently and with transparency,” he said.
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