News - 24 June 2021

Tasmanian Government Appears To Be Deliberately Misrepresenting World Heritage Committee’s “concerns”

  • At least 10 questions, concerns and requests contained in World Heritage Committee’s draft decision still require a response

  • Tasmanian Government’s initial statement fails to address a single concern

  • Rejecting World Heritage Committee’s concerns undermines island’s ‘eco tourism’ aspirations

The Tasmanian Government still needs to respond to the at-least 10 outstanding questions, requests and concerns in the World Heritage Committee’s draft decision (p70) regarding the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

In its initial response, the Tasmanian Government has failed to address any of these issues and instead appears to have deliberately misconstrued the Committee’s decision to provide itself with an excuse to reject the Committee’s detailed and legitimate concerns.

“To suggest that the Committee is requesting that, according to the Minister for Parks, Jacquie Petrusma, 'all developments, potentially including any works by the Parks and Wildlife Service… [need] another layer of approvals' appears to be deliberately misrepresenting the World Heritage Committee,” said Tom Allen for the Wilderness Society Tasmania.

There are 177 pages of regularly updated Operational Guidelines that make clear what the Government’s practical obligations are.

“The Committee is merely asking the Tasmanian Government to inform it of 'major restorations or new constructions which may affect the Outstanding Universal Value of the property'. A willing World Heritage custodian should consider this straightforward requirement an honour rather than something to squib.

“If the Tasmanian Government fails to respond to the World Heritage Committee’s concerns it will further entrench secrecy over transparency. It would also risk looking like the Gutwein Government’s agenda favours illegitimate development and privatisation over its obligations as a custodian of the world’s highest-rated World Heritage wilderness,” said Mr Allen.

In particular, the Tasmanian Government still needs to respond to the following outstanding items:

  • Given the Committee has asked for “more specific guidance on how exactly the wilderness values of the property should be considered in decision-making processes related to tourism management”, the Government needs to explain why the provision of “no net loss” to wilderness in the draft Tourism Master Plan was removed from the final Master Plan. (Especially as this point was explicitly referenced by the Government in its summary of public submissions - see below.) Who requested its removal and why? (Was it the current or former Minister for Parks?) How can the Government claim that the final Tourism Master Plan has responded to the Committee’s concerns if this commitment was mysteriously cut from the final plan, not least without any consultation?

Extract from summary of public submissions into the Tourism Master Plan for the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.
  • How can the Tasmanian Government claim that there’s an “approved management plan in place and a robust assessment process” while it continues to invite tourism proposals that breach the Management Plan, something the Tasmanian Audit Office has previously noted (para 3.6)?

  • When and how does the Tasmanian Government intend to complete the assessment of Aboriginal cultural and heritage values within the TWWHA, something that’s been outstanding since 2015? (And can the Government confirm it plans to move to a joint management arrangement with the palawa and ultimately return the TWWHA land to rightful Aboriginal ownership?)

  • Why is the Tasmanian Government proposing to gazette reserves at the lowest possible level of conservation when State and Commonwealth Governments have previously promised, in public and in multiple previous reports to the World Heritage Committee, that it would implement Recommendation 11 from the 2015 Reactive Monitoring Mission report and gazette them as new national parks?

  • The Tasmanian Government needs to explain why the Committee’s concerns about the Tourism Master Plan are “not warranted”. The Government alleges the concerns relate to “previous drafts” of the Master Plan, but UNESCO’s draft decision refers to the final Master Plan.

  • The Tasmanian Government claims that it has addressed UNESCO’s concerns about the Master Plan. How?

  • On what basis are the World Heritage Committee’s concerns “outside the functions of the WHC”, not least because the Committee refers to its own operational guidelines (paragraph 172)?

Operational Guidelines, paragraph 172 (p49)

“The World Heritage Committee invites the States Parties to the Convention to inform the Committee, through the Secretariat, of their intention to undertake or to authorize in an area protected under the Convention major restorations or new constructions which may affect the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. Notice should be given as soon as possible (for instance, before drafting basic documents for specific projects) and before making any decisions that would be difficult to reverse, so that the Committee may assist in seeking appropriate solutions to ensure that the Outstanding Universal Value of the property is fully preserved.”

For further comment: Tom Allen, 0434 614 323