30 May, 2015

UNESCO calls for changes to Tasmania's draft World Heritage management plan amid mining and logging fears

ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), 30 May 2015

A view of Cox Bight in Tasmania's World Heritage which is part of the South Coast Track (Dan Broun)

UNESCO's World Heritage Committee (WHC) is concerned about mining and logging under a draft management plan for Tasmania's World Heritage Area.

It wants the plan changed, and has stated that mineral exploration and exploitation is incompatible with world heritage status.

The Tasmanian Government is trying to change the way the state's 1.5 million hectare World Heritage Area is managed.

The existing management plan divides the area into four zones, while the new draft plan replaces the wilderness zone with a remote recreation zone.

In Paris overnight, UNESCO's WHC urged the draft plan be changed.

An initial review cited concerns that the plan appeared to create potential for logging operations and mining activity in the World Heritage Area.

It is also concerned that there is no clear identification of the area's cultural value.

A planned survey of the cultural attributes of Tasmania's World Heritage Area is due to be completed in 2018.

In its review of the draft management plan, the WHC said it had "repeatedly called" for a definition of the property's cultural value.

The committee recommended a mission of international experts be invited to Tasmania to review and provide advice for a survey and the revision of the draft management plan before any moves to finalise it.

'It's a wake-up call that we have to get it right'

Vica Bayley from the Wilderness Society said UNESCO delivered a damning rejection of Tasmania's draft management plan.

"It's a wake-up call that we have to get it right, we have to completely withdraw and redraft the management plan and we have to get on with the job of honouring the committee's request to engage with the Aboriginal community and properly understand and study the cultural heritage values of this area," he said.

Mr Bayley said it was uncommon for UNESCO to recommend sending a monitoring mission.

"I think that's significant in that it signals the committee has deep concerns over the management direction of the Hodgman Government, and that it wants to send its team out here to give advice and to assist with the development and finalisation of the management plan," he said.

"It demonstrates that the committee, I think, has lost confidence in the way Tasmania's wilderness World Heritage Area is being managed."

UNESCO last year rejected a bid from the Federal Government to delist more than 70,000 hectares of forest from the World Heritage Area.

The State and Federal Governments have been contacted for comment.

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