Legal Perspectives from EDO TasmaniaThank you devil

15 May 2014:  Senate Committee Report on amendments to the TWWHA boundaries

The Senate Committee has released its report on the Federal government’s proposal to reduce the size of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area by 74,000ha.  EDO Tasmania prepared the Australian Network of Environmental Defenders’ Office submission to the inquiry (available here) and gave evidence to the Inquiry at its Hobart hearing.

The majority report makes two recommendations:

Recommendation 1

The committee recommends that the Government’s proposal to the World Heritage Committee to remove 74,000 hectares from the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area be withdrawn.

Recommendation 2

The committee recommends that the study of the cultural heritage values of the extended Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area be commenced and completed in collaboration with the Tasmanian Aboriginal community and submitted to the World Heritage Committee by February 2015.

In addition to these two recommendations the Committee recommends that Forestry Tasmania conduct a review of the special timber sector.

The dissenting report does not contain recommendations.  It states in summary:

The Australian Government will honour its forestry election commitments in Tasmania to ensure the industry is sustainable in the long-term and is not hampered by self-interest groups.

The majority report notes that the vast majority of submissions opposed the Government’s proposal.  Referring to many of these, the majority report concludes “the committee is not convinced by the Government’s justifications for the proposal it has put to the World Heritage Committee”.   Specific findings of the committee include that:

  • there is no merit to the argument that “degraded” areas should be removed from the TWWHA, and the Government has not provided adequate detail in relation to areas it claims are “degraded”
  • only a small proportion of the 74,000ha could actually be described as “degraded”
  • the presence of degraded areas does not automatically justify exclusion from World Heritage listing
  • the Government’s proposal is overly focussed on the vegetation of the area when there are many other important features which contribute to the Outstanding Universal Values for which the TWWHA was listed.
  • the proposal could be seen as insulting to the World Heritage Committee (which added the areas only 11 months ago) and could set a terrible precedent for other countries seeking to exploit their World Heritage properties
  • the process leading up to the 2013 extension was not inadequate, as claimed by the government
  • the Government’s proposal “has nothing to do with concerns about the integrity of the World Heritage Area; the real reason behind the proposal is to delist the areas for the purposes of allowing access for forestry activities”

The overall conclusion of the Committee is:

…that the Government’s proposal to remove 74,000 hectares from the extended Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area is fundamentally flawed and will have an adverse impact on the values of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area