Tarkine National Coalition has reacted angrily to the latest chapter in Environment Minister Tony Burke’s campaign of misinformation regarding the Tarkine National Heritage assessment.

The Minister made comment on ABC Mornings (936 Tasmania) that he did not have in his possession any report from the Australian Heritage Council supporting a permanent listing of the Tarkine.

This is at odds with our reading of the Australian Heritage Council report from September 2010 which supported the permanent listing of 433,000 hectares it had assessed as having National Heritage Values. Minister Burke has refused to publically release this report, despite FOI requests from the ABC last year.

“The Minister is clearly failing in his responsibilities here, and is spinning mistruths to try and cover up his complicity in promoting mining in the Tarkine wilderness reserves,” said Tarkine National Coalition spokesperson Scott Jordan.

The Minister received this report two months before allowing the Tarkine’s Emergency National Heritage Listing to lapse. He then sent the AHC back to reassess the area, with a substantial budget cut and no capacity to complete the work before 2013. This will effectively shepherd up to ten new mine proposals through an EPBC process that cannot in the absence of a listing, legally consider impacts on National Heritage Values such as wilderness, rainforest, geological significance (fossil sites and karst systems), aesthetic character, Indigenous or European cultural heritage.

This mirrors the strategy applied by the Minister at the controversial Brighton By-pass in southern Tasmania and at James Price Point in northern WA, where once EPBC assessments were underway, a National Heritage Listing was applied that could have no legal effect on those ongoing assessments.

Independent advice from Andrew Macintosh, Associate Director of the ANU Centre for Climate Law and Policy confirms that the AHC report does in fact refer to a permanent listing, and advises that the AHC’s terms of reference only allow it to report on whether an area has National Heritage Values and prevents it from making ‘qualified’ or ‘preliminary’ findings. The correspondence from Mr Macintoshcan be downloaded below..

“It becomes impossible to have reasonable dealings with a Minister who won’t stick to the rules, and won’t tell the truth”.

“The Minister must immediately release the Australian Heritage Council’s Tarkine report from September 2010”.

A leaked copy of the report can be downloaded below.

The TNC and partner groups (WWF, Australian Conservation Foundation, The Wilderness Society, Tasmanian Conservation Trust, Environment Tasmania and North West Environment Centre) resubmitted a Emergency National Heritage Listing nomination last week, triggered by the threats to National Heritage Values of the Mount Lindsay and other mining proposals.

The resubmitting of the Tarkine Road proposal by the Tasmanian Government called into play a promise made by Minister Burke last December that if the Tarkine Road was resubmitted, that he would immediately re-list the Tarkine. The Minister has failed to deliver on this promise.

“The failure to reapply a Tarkine Emergency National Heritage Listing in response to the Tarkine Road referral clearly shows this Minister’s contempt for the responsibilities of his office, and clearly tells us that any promises he makes are worthless”.

“The key difference between this proposal and the former proposal is not the alterations to the route, but the fact that a mining company now needs this route for transporting product to ports”.


• Christine Milne: Burke places money and mines before Tarkine

Federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke, must explain why he will allow the assessment of mining proposals to occur in the Tarkine before acting on advice before him to permanently heritage list the region, Australian Greens Deputy Leader, Christine Milne said today.

“Minister Burke today claimed on ABC local radio to have no information leading to the emergency heritage listing of the Tarkine, but failed to mention a report buried in his department recommending the Tarkine be listed.

“The Environment Minister is playing into the hands of mining companies, who are no doubt jubilant of the 2013 deadline given to the Australian Heritage Council to determine whether permanent heritage listing should be put in place.

“By 2013, all ten of the mining proposals will be submitted to the department and any subsequent heritage listing will have no effect on their operations. The wilderness, geological and cultural values of the Tarkine will not be assessed.

“It is like putting on a seatbelt after your car has crashed.

“Minister Burke’s job has moved from a focus on natural and heritage values to one of being solely concerned with bleeding monetary value from the places he is supposed to protect.

“Peter Garrett placed emergency heritage listing on the Tarkine following the state government’s previous attempt at building a road, and now, with a similar application before him, as well as ten mining applications that will be seriously impinged by such a listing, we have Minister Burke reneging on his promise to heritage list the region should another road proposal be made.

“This ongoing, seven year process to determine heritage listing the Tarkine has become an embarrassment to Australia whose governments persistently fail to recognise the value of this natural jewel.

“Minister Burke has everything at his disposal for immediately placing the Tarkine on the National Heritage list. Act now, Minister Burke, before these mines have your name all over them.”