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Groom flouts UNESCO request to protect wilderness character in World Heritage

Tasmanian Environment Minister Matthew Groom has removed a long-standing protection against built accommodation on the South Coast Track in Tasmania’s Wilderness World Heritage Area, allowing up to seven huts to be constructed in this wild and remote area. This breaches a UNESCO World Heritage Committee decision and the recommendation of an expert mission to protect wilderness, a recommendation the Government unconditionally accepted[1].

The removal of wilderness protection has been confirmed in the finalised Management Plan for the World Heritage Area, released today after two years of controversy. In March, a UNESCO expert report recommended that the ‘primary goal’ of the Management Plan should be ‘…protecting the property’s Outstanding Universal Value[2], including wilderness character…’
( http://whc.unesco.org/en/documents/140379/ Rec 6 )

Up to seven huts to be allowed on the South Coast track is an increase in the number of huts from the controversial draft management plan released in 2015, which allowed for six. The previous (1999) plan does not allow any huts on the South Coast Track.

“Minister Groom has ignored the request of the World Heritage Committee and his own commitment to accept the recommendation of UNESCO’s experts and is undermining the protection of wilderness,” said Geoff Law, spokesperson for the Wilderness Society.

“Wilderness is a defining feature of Tasmania’s World Heritage Area, a powerful brand for Tasmania and something that has always had strong, clear protection through previous management plans.

“Now, Minister Groom has signed off on a plan that explicitly allows private, commercial developments to intrude within secluded and tranquil settings. Buildings and helicopter noise will degrade this wilderness.

“The plan released today will reduce the protection for wilderness, an indictment on Tasmania and a genuine threat to our credibility in the international World Heritage arena.

‘Both the Tasmanian and Australian Governments made clear commitments to implement the recommendations of UNESCO’s experts. This Management Plan contradicts those commitments on wilderness protection and is a snub to the international community.

“Following attempts to delist part of the World Heritage Area in 2014, and then log it in 2015, this is another insult the international community and a risk to Tasmania’s reputation,” said Mr Law.

[1] https://www.environment.gov.au/minister/hunt/2016/mr20160320.html
[2] Outstanding Universal Value – https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/70d3290e-be32-4efa-93da-594948f5df9e/files/outstanding-values-factsheet.pdf

The Wilderness Society (Tasmania) Inc.
130 Davey St,
Hobart, 7005
www.wilderness.org.au
Vica Bayley Tasmanian Campaign Manager The Wilderness Society (Tasmania) Inc.

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