WHAT LLEWELLYN TOLD PARLIAMENT….TARKINE ROAD AND THE IMPACT ON DEVILS
Ms O’CONNOR (Question) - Mr Speaker, my question is to the minister responsible for threatened species in Tasmania, Mr Llewellyn. Minister, you are aware that the Tasmanian devil is an endangered species in Tasmania and that the species is being decimated by devil facial tumour disease - which has led to local population declines of up to 80 per cent. You must also be aware that this disease now covers more than half the devil’s range and that the Tarkine wilderness in north-west Tasmania is regarded by leading scientists and those involved in the Save the Devil Project as a critical last stronghold for the devil’s survival. Yet, when the Save the Devil veterinarian, Dr Colette Harmsen, told the Waratah-Wynyard Council on 16 February that your Government’s proposed loop road through the Tarkine would put this iconic species more at risk through the spread of disease into an uninfected area and via more road kill, you said her logic was flawed and that the road’s potential impact on the devil had been taken into account. Minister, you are aware that 26 scientists supported Dr Harmsen’s position.
Where is your evidence and can you produce the research that you claim has been done to assess the impact of this destructive, divisive road on the Tasmanian devil?
Mr LLEWELLYN - Mr Speaker, it was never my intention to be disparaging to Dr Harmsen. I have met with her a number of times. At least one time I have met with her, I should say, on the issue of the devil facial tumour. I think it needs to be pointed out that there already is a major highway that goes across the northern part of the State, right through to Marrawah. In regard to the Tarkine Road exercise, it is my understanding that there is a gap of some 6 kilometres between the current roadworks, and the bridge is on the [Arthur] river, that is right, and the logic of devils not being able to traverse 6 kilometres. You can pull out scientists but, as I say, I….(interjections)
Mr Speaker, the recent media attention around the proposed Tarkine drive has certainly raised issues in relation to the possible impact on threatened species, including road kill and risks of spread of the devil facial tumour disease. Under Tasmania’s policy and legislative framework, the development of the new roading is required to take into consideration potential environmental impacts, including potential impacts on threatened species.
I can assure the Parliament that the ongoing planning and development of the road will take into account potential impacts on threatened species and will include appropriate mitigation measures.
My department has been involved in a number of studies into road kill in Tasmania and contributed to the development of mitigation measures in the re-engineering of the Marrawah to Arthur road and these measures have been taken into account in the planning of the Tarkine drive with the road design incorporating a number of design measures specifically to reduce the incidence of road kill. These include a range of speed controls, dusk to dawn limits in wildlife zones and specific road design features.
The potential risk of increasing the spread of the devil facial tumour disease needs to be considered in the context, as I have mentioned, of the existing road and track networks in the vicinity. There are currently 127 kilometres of existing roads and tracks through this area with only 5.4, not six, of new road proposed and I do not believe that this represents a significant increase in opportunities for Tasmanian devils to move through the environment.
I respect the views of the scientist involved and indeed I have taken one of her issues that you raise with me very seriously. We rearranged policy on that basis, and I am happy to talk to her again about it, but these are the facts associated with it. No amount of scientific backup and so on will alter the facts as they now stand.
Ms O’CONNOR (Question) … Where is your evidence and can you produce the research that you claim has been done to assess the impact of this destructive, divisive road on the Tasmanian devil?