Why aren’t Bob Brown and his colleagues in the Tasmanian Greens outraged at the aggressive tactics of millionaire adventurer and developer Dick Smith towards opponents of his proposed eco tourism development on the State’s Tasman Peninsula?

Mr Smith has fought a long, and ultimately successful battle to build an eco-tourism lodge at Crescent Bay, a stunningly beautiful strip of land about five kilometres from Port Arthur.

And now he is pursuing the Tasmanian National Parks Association, which objected to the proposed development because it said it would adversely impact the physical environment of this area, for legal costs. According to last Saturday’s Hobart Mercury, Mr Smith said he had clocked up $50,000 in legal bills and the small TNPA would have to foot the bill.

Not only that, but Smith then let fly at Tasmania’s liberal planning laws that allow anyone to object to a proposed development, irrespective of their interest in the matter. Smith wants to restrict the right to appeal against planning decisions made by local councils, according to a report in yesterday’s Sunday Tasmanian:

Mr Smith said “planning decisions made by local government bodies should be final”.

“I would not advise anyone to invest their money in Tasmania unless they were willing to go through the same types of appeals and subsequent delays that we have faced.”

One might have expected Bob Brown and his Tasmanian Greens colleagues to be frothing at the mouth at Smith’s actions and attitude. The Greens policy is to support the right of individuals and conversation groups to be allowed to have ready access to appeal mechanisms in planning matters. And the Party would normally be a vocal opponent of developers like Smith seeking to recoup their substantial legal costs against small groups that can patently not afford to pay such a bill.

As recently as in June this year the Tasmanian Greens leader Nick Mckim said that his Party believes:

…the capacity of the Tasmanian community to appeal planning decisions should be increased, and do not support any curtailment of the already inadequate existing rights of the Tasmanian community to appeal planning decisions.

So why the reticence on the part of the Greens to take on a high profile national figure like Smith? Apart from comments by Greens leader Nick McKim over the weekend that he was ‘disappointed’ in Smith’s remarks, there has been none of the expected outrage.

Does it have anything to do with Smith’s allying himself to one of Bob Brown’s cause celebres, the preservation of historic site Recherché Bay in Tasmania’s south east two years ago? Brown campaigned to prevent logging on the property and Smith donated almost $1.4 million to help Brown’s successful campaign in early 2006.

Smith was feted by Brown and the Greens — they called him a “hero”. Peg Putt, who was then leader of the Tasmanian Greens, said of Smith that he had played a pivotal role and spoke glowingly of his “great personal generosity.”

Dick Smith’s aggressive tactics are not worlds away from those used by the bete noire of the Greens — Gunns. So why aren’t the Greens taking the gloves off?

Peter Fray

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