The Australian Environment Minister has been urged to uphold Australia’s international obligations to conserve World Heritage values by using his powers under Australian legislation to halt logging inside Tasmanian forests recently nominated for World Heritage listing. Such logging last week provoked protest action on the forestry access road into Butlers Gorge.

A letter based on legal advice to Still Wild Still Threatened, the Huon Valley Environment Centre, and Markets For Change outlines to the Minister that Section 14 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act provides specifically for areas nominated but not yet listed as World Heritage to be the subject of a Ministerial Declaration. Publication of such a Declaration in the government Gazette is preliminary to any action to keep the World Heritage values safe from threat.

“As a signatory to the World Heritage Convention, Australia has taken on an obligation to protect World Heritage values under Articles 4 and 5 of that international agreement. Australian law then provides for the Environment Minister to publish a declaration regarding any place nominated to be added to the World Heritage list after which he can prevent any threats from destroying those values in the meanwhile – exactly the situation we are facing with the continued industrial logging of Tasmania’s forests nominated for recognition for their outstanding universal values,” said Jenny Weber of Huon Valley Environment Centre.

“We sent this letter and are publicising it, in order to scuttle the erroneous claim that there is nothing that the Australian Environment Minister can do to halt the logging until the area is actually listed. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

“It is a failure of political will that is daily destroying World Heritage values of these precious forests, and the Minister can’t simultaneously espouse these values and renege on his obligation to protect them,” said Miranda Gibson of Still Wild Still Threatened speaking from the Observer Tree.

“If it is true that the signatories are agreed on this continued logging, and we believe that this is not the position of the environmental signatories, then any such agreement is an awful mistake that must be rectified urgently.”

“Forestry Tasmania is dragging the chain on rescheduling this logging and plan to commence more. Continuing to provide product logged from a smash and grab raid inside World Heritage nominated forests to the market is a recipe for disaster. It will not only lead to the loss of environmental values but will quite likely unsettle markets further,” said the CEO of Markets For Change, Peg Putt.

“Tony Burke should act in the best interests of the forests as well as the industry,” Ms Putt concluded.

Download, letter to Australian Environment Minister: