29 May 2020


On 27 March 2020, the Tasmanian Parliament passed COVID-19 Disease Emergency (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2020 (Tasmanian Act). The Tasmanian Act provides broad power to the Premier, Attorney General and Treasurer to alter specified legislative requirements, by issuing notices published in the Government Gazette.

This includes the power of the Minister to alter planning requirements, including:

  • To reduce or extend statutory timeframes
  • To amend or revoke a provision of a planning permit or approval under any prescribed Act;
  • To provide protection from planning offences where necessary to comply with a public health or emergency requirement, direction or authorisation;
  • Extend statutory appointments;
  • To allow meetings to be conducted by telephone or electronic communication.

A notice can be issued where the Minister is of the opinion that the “relevant emergency circumstances” exist in relation to the notice.  The “relevant emergency circumstances” will be taken to exist where the Minister is satisfied that the notice is “necessary or desirable” because of:

  • the presence or risk of the virus in Tasmania,
  • a restriction on movement required by legislative instrument,
  • a reduction in the number of people available to carry out the activities to which the notice relates, or
  • to secure supply of goods and services, the supply of which is hindered. 

There are limits on the issue of a notice:

  • Notices must be issued with the approval of the emergency manager, and, where relevant, made at the request of the Court, Tribunal or public authority concerned.
  • Notices will cease to take effect after 12 months, or within 60 days of the cessation of a state of emergency, whichever is sooner.
  • Notices must be laid before both houses of Parliament and be provided to the Subordinate Legislation Committee of Parliament within 14 days of issue.

To date, notices relevant to planning and environment functions, including the Courts include:

  1. To alter public notice requirements such that documents need only be displayed on the relevant council website, or be available for collection on payment of a fee.
  2. To protect hospital services, medical centres and consulting rooms from planning offences if the use or development was necessary to comply with a public health requirement, direction or authorisation.
  3. To extend time for expiry of permits by 6 months.
  4. To allow the Supreme Court and Magistrates Court hearing processes to be altered, including to allow online and telephone hearings and not to comply with public hearing requirements.

Further information can be found here.

The following notices have been made under the COVID-19 Disease Emergency (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2020 (Tas):

The COVID-19 Disease Emergency (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act (No. 2) 2020 Act was passed on 5 May 2020, which does not amend planning and environment laws however allows for the delay of 2020 Legislative Council periodical elections in response to the public health emergency.   

Stimulus initiatives and advisory bodies

The Tasmanian Premier has announced the formation of an Economic and Social Recovery Advisory Council, which will provide recommendations to the Premier on “how to best mitigate the economic and social impacts of the pandemic”. For more, see the Premier’s speech to Parliament, as well as the government’s website for the Council here, which provides the Terms of Reference for the Council.

Non-COVID related environmental regulation reforms

Courts and hearings: Tasmanian courts, tribunals and hearings are proceeding with hearings and listings.  The Tasmanian Supreme Court is open to the public but conducting hearings online or by telephone, with hearings in person where necessary. No specific arrangements have been made to allow public to attend hearings online.

RMPAT and the Tasmanian Planning Commission hearing processes are being conducted online or by telephone. Both allow for members of the public to attend hearings: in RMPAT, by application, in the Commission, by filing a notice.