Environmental planning and regulation of the fin-fish industry
The environmental planning and regulatory regime for the fin-fish
industry is outlined in chapter 2 of this report. This chapter examines this
regime in greater detail by addressing issues related to the adequacy of
planning and regulation; independence of decision making; the role of the
Marine Farming Planning Review Panel (the Panel); and lack of integration of
the planning system.
Adequacy of the environmental planning and regulation
Mr Chris Dockray, Chairman, TSGA, highlighted the importance of the
regulatory system for the fish-farming industry. He stated:
...an efficient, predictable and accountable regulatory system
is required in the industry; not only for public confidence, but also for
investor confidence. We consider that the regulatory framework is adequate and
sufficient...we believe that we have a sound and transparent working relationship
with the government and our regulators.
Industry stakeholders indicated that they are required to comply with
the provisions of nearly 70 Commonwealth and Tasmanian Acts and 672
regulations. The Tasmanian Seafood Industry Council commented that the
regulatory framework for fin-fish aquaculture in Tasmania is 'one of the most
comprehensive and stringent frameworks developed globally'.
The Council added:
At a workshop on environmental planning held in conjunction
with the World Aquaculture Conference Adelaide 2014 there was acknowledgement
from all participants that the system developed in Tasmania could be used as a
blueprint in other jurisdictions.
In addition to statutory obligations, the TSGA noted the industry
participates in, or is directed by, a number of Commonwealth and state policies
and voluntary programs such as the Tasmanian Salmonid Health Surveillance
The committee was advised that, according to industry calculations, the
cost of compliance with the regulatory regime is high: $0.04/kg or $1,720,000
per annum and increasing. The TSGA added:
Industry estimates that costs have increased 100 per cent in
the past five years due to increased monitoring, additional staff, independent
certification and operational changes to meet certification requirements.
However, Ms Jessica Feehely, EDO Tasmania, argued that it is important
to consider the effectiveness of the current regulation. It was noted that the
current regulatory framework was established at the commencement of the
industry. Now that it is a well-established and expanding industry, the EDO
Tasmania argued that it 'is important that the laws are reviewed to ensure that
the impacts of these expansions are properly understood and properly managed'.
Ms Feehely commented that there was room for improvement in relation to
public participation, independence of decision making and transparency.
These issues are addressed below.
Independence of decision making
Some submitters argued that that there is a lack of regulatory
independence within the Tasmanian regulatory framework including the role of
the Environment Protection Authority (EPA). For example, EDO Tasmania commented
on the role of the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and
In Tasmania, the Marine Farming Branch within DPIPWE is
responsible both for promoting and regulating the marine farming industry;
potentially conflicting roles.
Mr Feehely, EDO Tasmania, added:
So the objectives which [DPIPWE] are working towards are in
conflict potentially because they are promoting an industry and are also having
to take action to potentially constrain the industry in the event that there
are inappropriate impacts. In other countries, that potential conflict is
managed by separating out the government agency responsible for management and
promotion and the government agency responsible for monitoring and compliance.
To illustrate its concerns about conflicting management priorities
within DPIPWE, EDO Tasmania pointed to the expansion of marine farming in
Macquarie Harbour. In this instance, DPIPWE was listed as the proponent for the
action in the referral to the Commonwealth Environment Minister although the
expansion was being undertaken by private companies. EDO Tasmania stated:
The close relationship between the three companies and the
regulator, a history of under-regulation and enforcement...and explicit support
expressed by DPIPWE for aquaculture projects all affect public trust in the
rigour of the regulatory framework.
Ms Feehely argued that, while there is a role for government in
assisting and supporting the industry, the same agency should not be
responsible for monitoring and for compliance of the industry. Ms Feehely went
on to state that these activities should be undertaken by the EPA.
Ms Feehely added that:
The Environment Protection Authority has the role in relation
to other activities of providing that monitoring and compliance, and we would
see that as an appropriate role for the EPA to take on monitoring and
compliance in relation to the aquaculture industry.
The regulatory independence in the current planning regime was supported
by Mr Julian Harrington, Tasmanian Seafood Industry Council. In this
regard, Mr Harrington commented on the rock lobster fishery and stated
An adaptive management structure does not mean it is always
about expansion. It is the government taking the responsible approach when
scientific information is put forward. In the case of the rock lobster fishery,
through various means—below average recruitment, urchin issues on the east
coast—stocks declined. The government and industry pushed for a retraction
rather than an expansion of the quota to ensure long-term sustainability.
Mr Harrington concluded that 'I am sure the government would take the
same approach with the salmon industry, should there be sufficient evidence to
suggest there is detrimental impact to other marine resources or the broader
When questioned about possible conflict of interest when the Tasmanian
Government is a strong proponent for growth of the industry and DPIPWE is the
regulator, Dr John Whittington, Secretary, DPIPWE, commented that:
...the government is very supportive of growth in the salmonid
industry. As a regulator, I am quite confident that we are regulating
appropriately in accordance with the legislation.
Marine Farming Planning Review Panel
Submitters commented on recent changes to legislation in relation to the
Panel, representation on the Panel and transparency of processes.
Change to decision making
For some submitters the change made to the role of the Panel in decision
making was a major concern. Until November 2011, the Panel could determine that
unacceptable proposals for fin-fish marine farming operations could not proceed.
However, amendment of the Marine Farming Planning Act 1995 (MFP Act) resulted
in the Panel being only able to make a recommendation to the Minister for
Primary Industries and Water.
Mr Jon Bryan, Tasmanian Conservation Trust, described the amendment as
removing 'even the requirement for the already inadequate planning process to
EDO Tasmania added that the minister would have the final decision in
relation to a proposal and could also make any changes to a proposal without
further consultation. EDO Tasmania did not support this approach and stated:
...there can be no good reason to allow proposed marine farming
activities where the independent, scientific expert Panel has determined that
the amendments are not sustainable and recommended refusal. Decisions made by
the Panel to refuse a proposal should be final (subject to a right of review...).
Allowing the minister to overrule any recommendations made by the Panel,
has led, according to the Australian Maritime Conservation Society, to a 'perception
that industry expansion is of greater importance than ensuring the environment
that supports it is healthy'.
However, Mr Julian Harrington, Tasmanian Seafood Industry Council, did
not agree with these views and stated:
The seafood industry supports the system in place to ensure
the sustainability of our seafood industry on the whole. The system in place at
the moment takes into account a whole range of information and input from a
whole range of stakeholders. So it is not necessarily the minister making a
final decision. It is the minister utilising input from a whole range of stakeholders.
In addition, the committee notes that while the minister is not required
to adopt the Panel's recommendation, the Minister must provide a statement of
reasons to the Tasmanian Parliament for any decision that is contrary to the
Transparency and consultation
The Tasmanian Conservation Trust commented on issues related to
transparency and consultation during Panel reviews. The Trust stated that there
is no requirement that the operations of the Panel are open to public scrutiny
and there is no mechanism that ensures that there is genuine public input into
the planning process. In addition, it was argued that 'there is no requirement
for the Marine Farming Planning Review Panel to take into account public
submissions and it does not have to justify its decisions'.
Mr Jon Bryan, Tasmanian Conservation Trust, commented further on the consideration
of community concerns by the Panel. He stated that the Panel:
...is purported to be an expertise based committee that can
represent the interests of a wide range of members of the community. Instead,
it has repeatedly failed to take into account genuine concerns about impacts
including things such as visual and noise pollution, nutrients and other
pollutants going into the water and loss of amenity. The panel has repeatedly
dismissed views of local residents and communities as well as recreational
users such as fishers and sailors. Many within the community have raised
concerns about this with the government. I have been a member of two government
endorsed peak recreational fishing groups that have pointed out the lack of
meaningful representation and requested representation on the panel. Their
requests were refused by the government.
In relation to the lack of a requirement to explain its decisions, Mr
Bryan noted that the Panel plans for the use of a public resource and thus 'it
is planning for impacts on communities and individuals—impacts that are very
significant for those communities and individuals—and it should be open to
public scrutiny, but it is not'.
Mr Bryan concluded that this is a structural issue with the planning process
and went on to state that 'to give the aquaculture industry credit, I think
that they have been more proactive and more sensitive to community needs and concerns
than the government in recent years, but that is really an indictment on the
Dr Whittington responded to concerns about public consultation and noted
that the systems set up under the MFP Act provide for public input into planning
decisions. He added that, in developing of new marine farm planning areas,
'there is a very public process' and environmental impact statements are
publicly available. In addition, there is opportunity for the community to put
their views to the Panel on those developments. Dr Whittington commented:
So there is a substantial process of community engagement and
involvement around the development of new waters.
Mr Tony Thomas, DPIPWE, in reply to questioning regarding community
concerns about marine farming proposals being taken into account by the Panel,
commented 'that is their role—it is their job to try to balance'.
The Panel consists of eight persons appointed by the Governor. The MFP
Act sets out the disciplines for each member:
- one is the
chairperson of the Panel; and
- one is
a person nominated by the chairperson of the Tasmanian Planning Commission with
ability and experience in planning issues; and
- one is
the Director, Environment Protection Authority; and
- one is a
person with ability in marine resource management; and
- one is
a person with ability to assess boating, recreational and navigational issues;
- one is
a person with experience in marine farming; and
- one is a
person with expertise in local government issues; and
- one is
a person nominated by the Minister.
EDO Tasmania commented that while members could have relevant scientific
expertise, there is no explicit requirement for the Panel to include a member
with qualifications in relation to marine ecology, hydrology, marine sediments
or conservation management. Similarly, while a community representative could
be the person nominated by the Minister, there is also no capacity for
community concerns to be specifically represented.
EDO Tasmania recommended that amendments be made to the MFP Act to require
that the Panel include a member with qualifications and expertise in relation
to marine ecology and hydrology and a member representing community issues.
Lack of integration of the planning process
Some submissions focused on the lack of integration in Tasmania of
marine farm planning and other planning regimes.
For example, EDO Tasmania commented that the MFP Act seeks to achieve
well-planned sustainable development of marine farming activities having regard
to the need to 'take account of land uses' as well as other matters.
However, EDO Tasmania argued that:
...the separation of marine farming planning from coastal and
land use planning frameworks can make it difficult to balance these objectives.
In practice, DPIPWE, the agency responsible for both planning and regulation of
marine farming, has a clear interest in favouring development of marine leases
over other uses.
EDO Tasmania went on to comment that, although local council planning
authorities have jurisdiction over land based operations, they do not have jurisdiction
over marine farming planning schemes. As a result, marine farming activities
fall outside the Tasmanian Land Use Planning and Approvals Act 1993
(LUPAA). However, the minister can require a planning scheme to be altered to
ensure that land based activities do not affect marine farming. EDO Tasmania
stated that this 'provides an unfair priority for marine farming activities'.
EDO Tasmania strongly advocated for the inclusion of marine farming
within the standard land use planning process under the LUPAA, with
responsibility for strategic planning, assessment and approval of development
applications and enforcement of permit conditions falling to local government.
In addition, it argued that planning schemes dealing with marine farming should
be reviewed by the Tasmanian Planning Commission (TPC).
EDO Tasmania also pointed to regulatory regimes in Scotland and New Zealand
where the integrated system of planning covers both traditional development and
land-use as well as marine and coastal uses.
An overview of aquaculture regulation in overseas jurisdictions is provided in
Appendix 3 of this report.
Similarly, the Tasmanian Conservation Trust commented:
Planning for aquaculture is not properly integrated into a
more general system of planning for the marine environment. There should be a
Tasmanian Coastal Policy that deals with the aquaculture industry in a way that
protects the values associated with Tasmania's coastal environment. It appears
that the even council planning does not necessarily limit aquaculture industry
activities on land, and that the water based components are not limited at all.
Mr Bryan, Tasmanian Conservation Trust, went on to comment that bringing
the marine planning process under the LUPAA would 'provide genuine community
input, public scrutiny, transparency of the process and a reasonable appeals
process that will actually protect people's rights and interests'.
Similarly, the Australian Marine Conservation Society noted concerns
about the lack of integration of marine planning activities and stated:
In effect, marine activities are given primacy over
terrestrial ones, with the effect that there is no holistic process that
considers the impact of aquaculture at an ecosystem level. Given the inshore
nature of aquaculture operations, the location of hatchery activities on land
and the inter-connectedness of land and sea, this separatist approach prevents
a strategic planning process that incorporates both terrestrial and marine
The Society noted EDO Tasmania's suggestion that marine planning come
under the LUPAA and that the TPC oversight aquaculture development plans. It
stated that this 'would be an appropriate way to ensure a strategic, whole of
ecosystem approach to taken to marine farm planning'.
Local government also commented on the lack of integration in the land
planning scheme. Kingborough Council stated that the Tasmanian Government does
not adequately involve local government in critical decision-making regarding
lease site activities, intensifications, expansions and remediation.
The Mayor of Kingborough Council, Mr Stephen Wass, commented:
I think the biggest issue in the past has been that, when a
licence has been provided to an area, the state government has provided that
licence and we have no issues with that and the procedures followed, but as far
as local government goes, because it is in a water area—and in our case that
was predominantly in the channel area—local government is not involved. Local
government is involved by finding out that that operation is going to take
place. The only time local government is involved is when there is an application
in relation to the land based activity requirements.
A further issue raised by the Kingborough Council was that, while
councils are not involved in marine planning processes, councils are the first
place that members of the community contact when problems arise. Mr Gary
Arnold, Kingborough Council, stated:
...the reality is that whilst we have no say in the approvals,
other than the opportunity to put a submission in, which we have done in the
past, once the leases are approved we generally are, for want of a better term,
the organisation that the community comes to with any concerns, whether they be
about noise, visual intrusion into their amenity, their water views et cetera
Mr Arnold suggested that one way of addressing local government concerns
would be for the Panel to be required to hold a hearing with the local
government or municipal area before any approval is given.
Dr Whittington, DPIPWE, responded to the suggestion that marine farming
planning should come within the LUPAA. Dr Whittington commented that he did not
consider that a change was warranted and stated:
The Tasmanian regulatory system is based upon the Resource
Management and Planning System, the RMPS. The Marine Farming Planning Act sits
inside that umbrella of the RMPS, as does the Tasmanian Planning Commission. We
believe that the regulatory environment that is set up under that act is...global
best practice and I do not see any reason to change that. The systems that are
set up under the Marine Farming Planning Act provide for public input into
planning decisions. They provide for expert advice into planning decisions and
provide advice to the relevant minister to make decisions. I think they are all
the elements of a good planning system and are consistent with the RMPS, of which
the [Tasmanian Planning Commission] is a part.
Merit review mechanisms
Of particular concern to some submitters was the lack of merit review or
appeal mechanisms within the marine farming planning process. The DPIPWE
confirmed that there is no appeal process. Mr Thomas, DPIPWE, stated:
Once the minister makes a decision on a development
proposal—be it a new plan or an amendment to a plan—there are no appeal
In contrast, EDO Tasmania noted that for most significant land use and
development decisions under the LUPAA, any person who made a representation can
appeal to the Resource Management and Planning Appeal Tribunal. This means that
the tribunal effectively re-hears the evidence and makes its own determination
as to whether the development proposal should proceed. However, there is no similar
right to appeal against a decision under the MFP Act to amend a marine farming
development plan to facilitate an aquaculture proposal.
EDO Tasmania stated that a perceived lack of independence in the
decision making processes under the MFP Act makes it important that a right to
appeal exist. Specifically, it argued that there should be an appeal process
that is open to any person who made a representation in respect to the initial
proposal, including affected residents, non-government organisations, other
industries, tourism operators and the local government.
EDO Tasmania also commented that in jurisdictions where there is an
integrated planning scheme it is standard practice for there to be
opportunities to appeal against decisions.
Ms Feehely added that the opportunity for third-party review of
decisions is the best way to deal with any issue around conflict of interest.
The Australian Marine Conservation Society also stated that, as there is no
right of appeal to challenge the minister's decision, 'there are limited opportunities
for community engagement and government accountability is zero'.
While there is no merit review mechanism in the MFP Act, judicial review
of administrative decisions by the Tasmanian Supreme Court is provided through
the Judicial Review Act 2000. A judicial review is concerned only with
whether the decision was lawfully made.
A merits review enables a review of all aspects of the challenged decision.
Adequacy of resourcing
A further issue raised by Environment Tasmania was the adequacy of
resourcing of the regulator. Environment Tasmania noted that the industry aims
to double production over the next 15 years. However, Environment Tasmania
argued that the regulator is unable to keep up with expansion plans, unable to
adequately assess monitoring data, unable to meet request for information from
the public, and is 'failing to ensure fair resource sharing between the
aquaculture industry, and other industries and the community for the
The DPIPWE Annual Report 2014 provides information on the department's groups
and staffing levels. The aquaculture industry is supported by staff across a
number of groups. Two of the main groups are Output Group 2 and Output Group 7.
Output Group 2–Primary Industries comprises two areas: AgiGrowth Tasmania (which
works with the agriculture industry to advance its prosperity and
sustainability) and Marine Resources (which supports the fisheries and seafood
sector). As at 30 June 2014, 58.25 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) staff were
employed in Output Group 2, an increase from 48.62 FTE as 30 June 2013.
Output Group 7 – Environment Protection and Analytical Services includes staff supporting
the EPA. As at 30 June 2014, there were 121.32 FTE, an increase from 120.18 as
at 30 June 2013.
The committee has considered the evidence provided concerning
environmental planning and regulation of the fin-fish industry. The committee
acknowledges that regulation of the industry is a Tasmanian state
responsibility. In addition, the committee does not consider that there is
clear evidence that the planning regime is flawed.
Nonetheless, the committee has noted the comments about the composition
of the Marine Farming Planning Review Panel. While marine scientists have been appointed
to the Panel, in particular Professor Colin Buxton and Dr Lois Koehnken, the
committee considers that it is highly desirable that the Government ensure that
the Panel always has at least one member with specific qualifications related
to the marine environment.
The committee also believes that the Tasmanian Government should give
consideration to identifying additional means for expanding community
involvement in the planning process. The committee notes that the Panel may
hold public hearings but there is no statutory obligation to do so in the
Marine Farming Planning Act. The committee is of the view that consideration
should be given to amending the Act to require the Marine Farming Planning
Review Panel to hold public hearings in relation to a draft plan or an
amendment to a plan. Not only would public hearings allow for community
participation, they would also provide an opportunity for local councils to
engage in the planning process and assist the industry to explain its proposals
in a public forum.
The committee recommends that the Tasmanian Government give
consideration to amending the Marine Farming Planning Act 1995 to provide
a statutory obligation for the Marine Farming Planning Review Panel to hold
The committee has noted suggestions that the fin-fish aquaculture
planning process be brought under the Land Use Planning and Approvals Act
1993 to promote integration with other planning regimes. However, the
committee notes that the membership of the Marine Farming Planning Review Panel
includes a person nominated by the chairperson of the Tasmanian Planning
Commission with ability and experience in planning issues and a person with
expertise in local government issues. The committee considers that the
inclusion of these members on the Panel provides oversight of local government
concerns during the planning process.
The Tasmanian Government relies on an adaptive management approach to
ensure effective and timely responses to the evolving issues within the
fin-fish industry. The committee supports such an approach. However, the
committee considers that for an adaptive management approach to be fully
effective, adequate resourcing of relevant government agencies is necessary.
The principal government agency responsible for the primary production
sector in Tasmania is the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and
Environment. The department also includes the Environment Protection Authority.
The committee notes that department's responsibilities are extensive. In
addition, not only is the fin-fish aquaculture industry planning significant
expansion of its operations over the coming years, the dairy industry is currently
experiencing substantial growth.
The department's Annual Report 2014 indicated that staffing levels have
increased in relevant monitoring and compliance areas. However, the committee
considers that the Tasmanian Government should continue to ensure that the
department has a sufficient number of staff, and staff with appropriate skills,
to effectively manage all primary industries in Tasmania, particularly at a
time when some industries are experience significant growth.
The committee recommends that the Tasmania Government ensure that the
Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment is provided with
sufficient resources to undertake planning, monitoring and compliance of the
primary industry sector.
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