Media Releases - 25 September 2023

New UNESCO statement confirms Aboriginal values & wilderness fundamental to Tasmania’s World Heritage Area - Minister Plibersek’s protection now required…

The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Image: Jimmy Cordwell.

Conservation groups have written to Australia’s Environment Minister, Tanya Plibersek MP, to welcome the new Retrospective Statement of Outstanding Universal Value (page 16) for the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) of Lutruwita/Tasmania. The Statement, provided by the Australian government, was approved by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee at its 45th session in Riyad, Saudi Arabia, which concludes today.

Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) refers to the cultural and natural values of places that determine their World Heritage status. According to UNESCO, “Outstanding Universal Value means cultural and/or natural significance which is so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and to be of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity.”

World Heritage properties are required to provide a Retrospective Statement of Outstanding Universal Value if they were inscribed as a World Heritage property before 2007. The TWWHA was inscribed in 1982.

This new statement makes clear that the Tasmanian wilderness area’s outstanding cultural and natural values are intertwined as “one of the world’s largest and most spectacular temperate wilderness areas and a precious cultural landscape for Tasmanian Aboriginal people”.

The statement also says “The property demonstrates the interaction between people and the landscape over millennia and has an exceptional degree of intactness and high degree of naturalness. Its large extent, remoteness, and quality of wilderness is the foundation for the integrity of its natural and cultural values.”

The groups have also thanked Minister Plibersek and the environment department for supporting the new statement and asked her to honour the new statement by seeking the Minister’s intervention to protect the integrity of the world’s highest-rated World Heritage wilderness, which is threatened by a pipeline of private commercial tourism developments.

“The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, the world’s highest-rated World Heritage wilderness, now has an official statement in place that makes clear that Aboriginal living, cultural and historical values, and wilderness, are fundamental to its integrity. We now need Minister Plibersek to protect this integrity and ensure these values are protected by rejecting the Lake Malbena proposal,” said Tom Allen, campaign manager for the Wilderness Society Tasmania.

“We are deeply grateful to UNESCO, Minister Plibersek and the officials in the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW), who have supported the adoption of this statement by the World Heritage Committee.

“The integrity of one of the world’s last and largest areas of temperate wilderness, this ancient living cultural landscape, rests with Minister Plibersek and we trust that Minister Plibersek will honour Australia’s international World Heritage obligations by protecting it,” said Mr Allen.

Campaign Manager for Fishers and Walkers Tasmania, Dan Broun congratulates and thanks all those who refined the wording of the rSOUV to accurately reflect the international importance of the TWWHA’s natural and cultural values.

“Bushwalkers and backcountry anglers have long understood the values contained in Tasmania’s wild places, it’s pleasing that the adoption of the rSOUV confirms to the global community what we have known in our soul and why we need to protect its integrity.”

“This statement justifies every action we have taken to protect Lake Malbena and other places from inappropriate commercial development. We call upon Tanya Plibersek MP to reject the Lake Malbena proposal and to insist the Tasmanian government scrap its policy of privatising and degrading Tasmanian wilderness.”

“It is extremely important the Tasmanian government’s push to privatise our national parks with built infrastructure is stopped - as the rSOUV makes clear, these places are reserved for their outstanding natural and cultural values, not for profiteering and plundering.”

President of the Tasmanian National Parks Association, Nicholas Sawyer, welcomed the rSOUV. “Over 40 years after the first areas of the Tasmanian wilderness were inscribed on the World Heritage List, we have finally got an agreed Statement of the Outstanding Universal Value for the whole area. This is wonderful news, especially as it acknowledges that the area’s wilderness character is fundamental to its integrity. The TNPA calls upon both state and federal governments to ensure that no further degradation of this wilderness character is permitted”.