A landowner’s permission to clear more than 1800 hectares of native forest in north-east Tasmania is being challenged in court by The Tasmanian Conservation Trust (TCT), represented by the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO). 

TCT is challenging the validity of a Forest Practices Plan (FPP) that purports to authorise the landowner to clear 1,804 hectares of native forest near Ansons Bay.

The plan would see the forest, including 491 hectares of critically endangered forest community, converted into grazing land for cattle. 

TCT’s case before the Supreme Court of Tasmania is against two primary respondents – the Forest Practices Authority, and the current landowner, Mr John Ewart Tucker MP, the Liberal Member for Lyons.

TCT’s application is seeking the Supreme Court declare the FPP invalid, arguing it was issued in error, in 2015.

TCT says it’s taking action to protect the forest, which contains threatened species and forest communities including:

–       491 hectares of Eucalyptus ovata forest, which was in 2015 listed as endangered under state law and is now nationally listed as a critically endangered ecological community;

–       habitat for nationally listed threatened spotted-tailed quoll, New Holland mouse and Tasmanian devil; and

–       eight state and nationally listed threatened plant species.

TCT CEO Peter McGlone said:

“This plan would allow clearing of 1804 hectares of native forest for conversion to pasture. That is greater than all the permitted clearing under the Forest Practices Act 1985 state-wide for the last three years combined.

“If the clearing proceeds, it will be the largest clearing to occur on private land in Tasmania for over ten years.

“Clearing of this kind has been steadily declining in Tasmania, and TCT is determined to prevent a reversal of that trend.

“The values on the property were documented in a decision of the Forest Practices Tribunal in 2009.

“The Eucalyptus ovata forest on the property is perhaps the largest concentration of this endangered community on non-protected land in Tasmania. E. ovata is also habitat for the endangered swift parrot.

“TCT works to protect our precious natural environment, biodiversity and threatened native species.

“We are determined to stop the destruction of this 1,804-hectare native forest at Ansons Bay.”

EDO Managing Lawyer Claire Bookless said:

“In taking TCT’s case to the Supreme Court, we will be arguing that the plan to clear this land should not have been certified by the FPA.

“We are taking action to prevent an alleged error seven years ago which has the potential to result in the destruction of critically endangered forest and 1,804 hectares of habitat. 

“The purpose of our environmental laws and policies should be to protect biodiversity and ensure critically endangered ecosystems like this survive. In this case we will argue the Forest Practices Authority failed to properly apply the law in its decision to allow the clearing of 1804 hectares of forest.  

“Amid climate and biodiversity crises it is essential we protect habitat such as this and ensure that the laws and correct processes are followed.”

The court case is being heard on the 2nd and 3rd of May.

 Lisa De Ferrari SC and Kay Chan of the Victorian Bar have been briefed as counsel.