The government has pushed back its deadline for submitting plans for the Northern Regional Prison with Meander Valley Council, but claimed it was due to the election rather than other planning issues.
The deadline has consistently been for the 2021 calendar year, however a government spokesperson confirmed this target had changed, with the caretaker period during the election campaign considered the reason.
"The combined Planning Scheme Amendment and development application for submission to the Meander Valley Council is expected to occur in early 2022," the spokesperson said.
It comes after the prison project director confirmed to opponents that the department intends to refer the project to the federal environment minister under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
Referrals are only made if environmental advice finds that the project is likely to have "significant impact" on a matter of national environmental significance, or on the environment in general.
The department has confirmed the presence of various listed species on the site, including the masked owl, grey goshawk, wedge-tailed eagle and green and gold frog. The endangered masked owl was expected to "hunker down" in a burrow during recent test drilling, as per departmental advice.
But Infrastructure Minister Michael Ferguson said that having a government project potentially referred for having a significant impact on the environment was nothing to worry about.
"It's pretty unremarkable, it's pretty normal, it's pretty basic - we've got no problems with that," he said.
"There might well be some issues that need to be considered because that's how the planning system is supposed to work."
The Commonwealth has previously questioned the Tasmanian Government over its plans for the land, which the state purchased in the late 1990s using $569,400 in federal funding intended for conservation purposes. The land has yet to have the required legal protection placed on it.
Westbury Regional Against the Prison used the confirmation email from the project director as evidence that the government had chosen the wrong land for its proposed prison.
The EPBC Act listing would allow for public comment, and also include specific details about the level of impact the prison would have on the environment.
The department has finished its core test drilling on the site and has "collected sufficient information on the geotechnical conditions" to progress towards a development application with the council, according to email sent to WRAP.
The government also had a proposed housing development at Huntingfield referred to the Commonwealth due its likely significant impact on a colony of endangered forty-spotted pardalote.