Media Releases - 24 February 2022

Wilderness Society briefs World Heritage Centre on Tasmanian Govt’s Broken Promises

Forest deep within the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Image: Grant Dixon.

Ghost of Tony Abbott’s delisting still haunts Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area

Last night Australian environment organisation the Wilderness Society addressed the World Heritage Centre at an international forum, the NGO-UNESCO Dialogue Forum.

“We impressed upon attendees from around the world that the government of lutruwita/Tasmania has repeatedly promised to create national parks out of this improperly-protected public land arising from multi-stakeholder negotiations, but has demonstrably failed to deliver,” said Jimmy Cordwell, campaigner with the Wilderness Society Tasmania.

“The Tasmanian government has repeatedly promised to make these areas national parks but is now instead proposing to zone these forested landscapes under the weakest possible protections of Regional Reserve and Conservation Area.

“With more than 18,000 people having signed our open letter to the World Heritage Chair, it’s clear people want these globally-significant forests properly protected as the government previously promised.

“The Tassie wilderness is a lot of things—it’s spectacularly beautiful, vast and inspiring, and so deeply valued by the oldest continuing culture on Earth, lutruwita/Tasmania’s First Nation’s custodians, the palawa-pakana people. It’s one of the last great expanses of wilderness left on Earth—but there’s zero space in it for broken promises.”

“The area of public land that’s not properly protected constitutes 25,000 hectares (250 square kilometres) of high conservation value (HCV) forests across some of the most spectacular landscapes on the island.

“The Tasmanian government promised a new national park in the Tasmanian Wilderness following a community consultation, in which 97% of submissions supported a national park. Instead, the Tasmanian government is ignoring its own consultation and proposing the weakest possible levels of protection.

“Conservation Area and Regional Reserve—the tenures proposed by the government—ignore the outstanding universal value of the Tasmanian Wilderness. The Statutory Management Plan for the Wilderness World Heritage Area has already been weakened by the government and we’re concerned a future government could weaken it further. If these reserves aren’t properly protected, they could be vulnerable to exploitation, with both these tenures still allowing mining and forestry operations,” said Mr Cordwell.

In 2014 the Australian government, under Prime Minister Tony Abbott, attempted to delist over 74,000 hectares of Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, sending shockwaves through the international community. The public responded and this barbaric move was stopped, but it tainted Australia’s global reputation as a strong World Heritage steward.

Contact: Jimmy Cordwell 0447 721 882 (or Tom Allen 0434 614 323)

Letter to UNESCO