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Tasmania wilderness: Greg Hunt says areas to lose heritage status ‘degraded’

Forests in Tasmania

Areas of Tasmania’s wilderness forest could lose their heritage status. Photograph: The Wilderness Society/AAP


Powered by article titled “Tasmania wilderness: Greg Hunt says areas to lose heritage status ‘degraded'” was written by Paul Farrell, for on Sunday 2nd February 2014 23.03 UTC

The federal environment minister, Greg Hunt, has defended the government’s proposal to reverse the world heritage listing of parts of Tasmania’s wilderness area and said most of the area is “degraded or logged”.

The minister played down the impacts of the government’s proposal which seeks to wind back the heritage listing of 170,000 hectares of wilderness area in Tasmania that were added to the existing heritage area in 2012 by the then environment minister, Tony Burke.

“What has been put to the committee for reconsideration is 117 degraded or logged areas. These are areas which many people feel should never have been included because they significantly detract from one of the great world heritage areas,” he told ABC Radio National.

“Only those areas which have been degraded or damaged, of which there are 117 of them, which many, many people feel should never have been added are those that are being reconsidered.”

But earlier on Monday, Peter Hitchcock, an environmental and heritage consultant specialising in world heritage, disputed Hunt’s claim that many of the areas were logged.

“The great majority of the area that is being proposed to be removed from the world heritage area is in fact unlogged forest and much of it with important conservation values,” he said.

“Some of it is being retained but I think we need to have the full story. Some of it is being excised and in the case of the Weld some of the area that is being taken out are regarded as some of the most impressive tall eucalyptus forest over rainforest anywhere.”

When asked whether he had visited the area, Hunt did not give a clear indication on whether he had inspected the region. “I have been right over the maps, the photographs, we had a mission fly over the area,” he said.

The proposal has sparked opposition from the Tasmanian government, environmental advocates and logging groups. The Tasmanian environment minister, Brian Wightman, had earlier said in December that simply delisting a world area would bring Australia into disrepute.

“The Tasmanian forest agreement is paving the way for the establishment of a sustainable, long-term and successful forest industry,” he said. “But the federal and state Liberal parties are hell-bent on taking the industry backwards and removing any chance for Tasmania to market its products.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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