Tuesday, 24 November 2015
Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area
Currently, in Tasmania, the World Heritage Committee's reactive monitoring mission is meeting with a range of stakeholders and engaging in visits into the absolutely magnificent and globally significant Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. On behalf of the Australian Greens I offer them our welcome to Tasmania and wish them all the very best on their very important trip. I also look forward to personally meeting with them during the course of their trip. And when I do meet with them, one of the things I will be pointing out is that the response from the Tasmanian and Australian governments to the decision that the World Heritage Committee made in Bonn in June this year has been underwhelming to say the least. I will be very respectfully sharing with them the Greens views on issues that exist around management of the World Heritage property in Tasmania, specifically the proposed management of the property by the Tasmanian and Australian governments.
I have referred to the decision that the World Heritage Committee made in Bonn in June, and it is worth placing a couple of matters that the committee referred to in its decision on the record. Firstly, it expressed its concern that substantial progress has not yet been made on the survey of cultural attributes it requested since 2013, and the Greens share these concerns. When we were in government, in a Labor-Greens government, in Tasmania we did everything we could to make sure adequate resources were provided for cultural heritage studies and, importantly, that the Tasmanian Aboriginal communities were actively engaged during the development of those studies.
In June, in Bonn, very importantly, the World Heritage Committee also urged the state party—that is, the Australian government—to review the proposed new management plan for the property to ensure that it provides adequate protection for the property's outstanding universal values. This recommendation from the World Heritage Committee has come about because, incredibly, the Tasmanian government has released a draft management plan for the property that provides for logging inside the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. It also fails to explicitly rule out mining and quarrying inside the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Potentially even more incredible—and can you believe this—is that the wilderness zone inside the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area was completely evaporated in the state government's draft management plan. The wilderness zone was replaced with something that they called the 'remote recreation zone'.
This is a window into the priorities of the Tasmanian government, through which we can see that wilderness is not something they value and not something they understand. Instead, they see almost the entirety of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area as a 'recreation zone' for people to go to and enjoy recreational activities. The area was reserved for many of its natural and cultural heritage values and it was created as a World Heritage area for its outstanding universal values, including its wilderness values. That is why the World Heritage Committee in Bonn, in urging the state party to review the proposed new management plan for the property, asked it to ensure that the proposed new management plan provides adequate protection for outstanding universal values, including—and I quote from their decision—'recognition of wilderness character of the property as one of its key values and as being fundamental for its management'. That is a quote from the World Heritage Committee.
The committee also quite rightly asked the state party to ensure adequate protection for the cultural attributes of the outstanding universal values of the property. It also asked for the establishment of strict criteria for new tourism development within the property, which would be in line with the primary goal of protecting the property's outstanding universal values, including its wilderness character and cultural attributes. This has come about because of an expressions of interest process that has been run by the Tasmanian government, whereby a large number of proposed tourism developments proposed for inside the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area have been submitted to the Tasmanian government and are currently in various stages of an assessment process. But there has been nothing made public and nothing around strict criteria for those new tourism developments, as requested by the World Heritage Committee.
One thing the Greens are very firm on is that we need a process that assesses the cumulative impacts of all the developments proposed inside the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, because at the moment the Tasmanian government does not have a process that allows for cumulative impacts to be assessed, and those projects will simply be assessed on a project-by-project basis.
In June this year, in Bonn, the World Heritage Committee also urged the state party, the federal government, to ensure that commercial logging and mining are not permitted within the entire property. That is a very stark statement, and, given that statement, it is incumbent on the Commonwealth government, including environment minister Hunt and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who has actually visited some of the forests that were recently added to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, to ensure that the Tasmanian government walks away from its bizarre and radical proposal to log inside the World Heritage area.
The World Heritage Committee also asked that all areas of public lands within the property's boundaries, including regional reserves, conservation areas and future potential production forest lands have a status that ensures adequate protection of the outstanding universal values of the property. In the Greens view this means, at the very least, that the regional reserves and the conservation areas should be made national parks, because their national and cultural heritage values mean that they deserve to be made national parks. Put simply, the Greens do not trust the Tasmanian government to understand the outstanding universal values of the property, to appreciate the outstanding universal values of the property or to manage the property for its outstanding universal values. If anyone wants any evidence as to why the Australian Greens do not trust the Tasmanian government, I will read a very short excerpt from Hansard from the Tasmanian parliament when I was a member down there representing the Greens. I asked the Premier, Mr Hodgman, a couple of questions on wilderness in budget estimates. I asked him:
Premier, would you agree it is not possible to log and mine in wilderness areas without compromising wilderness values?
Mr Hodgman said:
I followed up and asked him:
So you think you can log and mine in a wilderness area without compromising wilderness values?
And Mr Hodgman said:
I think you can.
So there you go. The Tasmanian Premier, the man who says, 'Trust me, we will adequately manage the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area thinks you can log and mine in a wilderness area without compromising wilderness values. I have got news for him: you cannot log and mine in wilderness areas without compromising wilderness values.
The Tasmanian Premier, Mr Hodgman, has said he will accept the umpire's decision. Good on him, but in fact the umpire's decision was made in Bonn in June, four or five months ago. If he was really going to respect the umpire's decision, he would have started work on implementing those recommendations that I referred to from the World Heritage Committee.