The Supreme Court’s decision to let a mining company truck ore at night through a significant Tasmanian devil population could pose a significant new risk to the endangered species and highlights the need to reform the state’s environment and planning laws. [1] 

Tarkine National Coalition (TNC) Campaign Coordinator Scott Jordan said: “We are very disappointed by this decision because it means a significant new risk to an important population of Tasmanian devils still stands. 

“This is a very poor outcome for our iconic devils and raises serious questions about the standard of environmental regulation in Tasmania. If our environment and planning laws cannot protect our most vulnerable species, they are not fit for purpose. 

“This decision leaves us asking how can the public have trust in the planning system when the EPA can simply reverse conditions imposed by the planning tribunal to protect our endangered species?  

“We are carefully examining the judgement with our legal team at the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) to consider our options.  

“We remain determined to do whatever we can to protect our devils from this unnecessary intensification of industrial activity in a region that should be protected as a national park.” 

At the court hearing last September, the TNC sought orders overturning a Tasmanian Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) decision to vary Venture Minerals’ Riley Creek mine permit to allow night movements of trucks. 

TNC acted because night-time truck traffic poses a grave risk to nocturnal devils, which were listed as endangered federally in 2006 after an almost 30% drop in their numbers. Vehicle strikes are responsible for 50% of devil deaths in some parts of Tasmania. [2] 

The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed TNC’s appeal. While the court found the planning tribunal’s limit on night truck movements was consistent with a “precautionary approach to ecosystem sustainability and integrity” — one of the objects of state environmental law — the EPA Director could lawfully reverse those conditions because “the statutory objectives are not binding rules of law that a decision-maker is obliged to obey”.  

EDO Manager Lawyer (Tasmania) Claire Bookless said: “Tasmania’s environmental and planning laws need to be urgently reformed to ensure there are clear obligations on the EPA Director to adopt a science-based and precautionary approach to protect the environment and precious threatened species like the Tasmanian devil.    

“There are very few limits on the EPA Director’s discretion to vary permit conditions without public consultation. This is a serious concern in terms of access to environmental justice, transparency and good governance. 

“The court’s decision poses questions about the accountability of the EPA Director when large industries, like mining and salmon farming, seek variation of permit conditions, even when those conditions are imposed as a result of community input and following a decision by the state’s planning tribunal. This is clearly unacceptable. 

“This decision also shows there is a need for greater clarity in what sustainable development means in Tasmania, and how the EPA should be applying a precautionary approach in its decisions. 

“The Tasmanian Government has committed to undertaking a comprehensive review the Act of in this term of government. [3]

“Independent experts have been leading the recent reviews of environment protection laws in other jurisdictions, including the Commonwealth and Victoria.  

“EDO calls on the government to ensure that the review of Tasmania’s environmental legislation is undertaken by suitably qualified and independent experts and properly engages with all Tasmanians.” 


TNC advocates for the creation of a National Park in the Tarkine Wilderness area of Tasmania, to protect the natural environment of that area. Advocacy includes education, publicity and monitoring of land use.  


[1] Tarkine National Coalition Incorporated v Director, Environment Protection Authority [2023] TASSC 3 

[2] Species Profile and Threats Database, Sarcophilus harrisii — Tasmanian Devil, Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water.  

[3] See Hansard, House of Assembly Tuesday 25 October 2022, and Hansard, Legislative Council Thursday 24 November 2022


Tarkine National Coalition | Campaign Coordinator Scott Jordan  

Environmental Defenders Office | Managing Lawyer (Tasmania) Claire Bookless  


EDO | James Tremain | 0419 272 254 | [email protected]