Undemocratic Politics Again Determines Land Use in Tasmania: An Update

A DECISION made in Cambodia this month by the United Nation’s World Heritage committee could add 172,000 hectares of forest to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Federal Minister for the Environment Tony Burke was seeking to have the deal sealed without proper scrutiny, in particular by using a loophole in the UN guidelines to label it as a “minor” modification. But this plan to rush through the extension in support of the Tasmanian forest peace deal hit a major hurdle when a key UN adviser, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) recently rejected the proposal as ‘minor’ and recommended that the nomination be ‘referred back’ to Australia to enable full and proper consultation.

The draft decision is at: http://whc.unesco.org/archive/2013/whc13-37com-8B-Add-en.pdf

But what the final outcome will be is unclear. It is understood that the Australian government and the environmental NGO’s will be sending delegations to lobby individual committee members to overturn the recommendation to ‘refer back’ the nomination.

Tasmanian Wilderness 172000 ha addition

Such a refer-back would enable a proper assessment of the extension and allow a change in the new Federal Government after 14 September to examine all the facts. The decision of the World Heritage Committee will be watched with interest, and a web cast of proceeding will be available to see the UNESCO delegates in action at http://www.whc37cambodia2013.kh/news/press/01/42.html

The World Heritage Committee’s recommended position next week at its meeting in Cambodia will be to send this nomination back to the state party (Australia) on the basis of concerns in relation to aboriginal heritage, management and consultation. As a mixed property that has both cultural and natural values, any proposed extension must be considered by two advisory groups, ICOMOS on cultural, and the IUCN on natural values. Cultural values include both indigenous values going back 40,000 years as well as early European settlement.

Despite the ICOMOS finding, however, and the World Heritage Committee recommendation, the IUCN has recommended the extension proceed while acknowledging it is over a 12% increase and that it includes areas not contiguous with the existing boundary.

Confusing. Yes! But such is politics at the UN.

Only last year did the IUCN describe a 10% extension the absolute upper limit for a minor boundary adjustment, it also claimed that any adjustment involving mining must not be considered as ‘minor’.

“A notional cut-off of 10% increase has generally been considered to be the absolute upper limit for a modification to be considered via the “minor modification” process, considering the Operational Guidelines clearly define such modification as having a minor impact on the extent of the property.” see http://whc.unesco.org/archive/2012/whc12-36com-inf8B2-en.pdf stated on Page 75.

Having two recommendations from its advisers that include opposite recommendations should make this UNESCO committee cautious of accepting such a controversial nomination.

ICOMOS concerns were related to the failure to properly consult the aboriginal community, the Government appears to have not only ignored the aboriginal leadership, but new neighbours represented by the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association.

Alan Ashbarry
Hobart, Tasmania

This is the second in a series of blog posts, the Part 1 can be found at http://jennifermarohasy.com/2013/05/undemocratic-politics-again-determines-land-use-in-tasmania-alan-ashbarry/

9 Responses to Undemocratic Politics Again Determines Land Use in Tasmania: An Update

  1. gary turner June 14, 2013 at 10:47 pm #

    Tasmania, to my understanding, is not exactly some backwater, artificially created nation hoping to one day reach the status of Third World. Just what the hell has the UN to do with the internal affairs of a political sub-division of a modern First World nation?

    Is your Australian government so corrupt as to try an end run around the wishes and political will of the people? Yeah, ours (USA) does the same, but our separation of powers tends to create welcome gridlocks when blatant power grabs are attempted. I can’t imagine a president getting away with encouraging the UN to ‘declare’ a 12% extension of Yellowstone which includes, say, the non-contiguous Nebraska shale oil and gas fields.



  2. ianl8888 June 15, 2013 at 8:40 am #

    @gary turner

    ” …Is your Australian government so corrupt as to try an end run around the wishes and political will of the people?”


  3. mark June 15, 2013 at 11:17 am #

    Do not forget, Minister Bourke has his roots in the Daintree protests. Change and spots come to mind. He is a mean piece of work.

  4. Robert June 15, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

    We have come to associate conserving forests with not exploiting forests. In fact, preservation and profit are not incompatible. People are starting to see the folly of abandoning rangeland. Those American cowboys (often portrayed in movies as bullying the innocent homesteaders) were aware that their cattle were performing a perennial function on land that was often not suited to farming long-term. They had a point.

    As for forests, more firetrails, more people on the ground, stricter standards…this sounds a lot better than simple abandonment and filling the country with Bob Carr parks where wild dogs get to do a thousand times as much hunting as humans are allowed to do – and hunting of all the wrong species!

    It’s time to question whether true conservation is compatible with urban green intellectualism. We have to start questioning old ideas that have been moldering since the sixties and are still somehow regarded as new.

  5. John Sayers June 15, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

    Bourke completely ignored the scientists advice on the Fishing Trawler, he’ll do the same here.

  6. cementafriend June 15, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

    At a quick glance at the map it seems the “Greens” want to kill tourism as well as jobs in Tasmania.
    Mt Field is a recreational area near Hobart where in winter some skiing can be done. Tourism in winter in Tasmania is not great. Locking up some areas of potential tourism makes no economic sense.
    Another tourist area is Cradle Mt.
    Mole Creek is a center for Leatherwood honey. Will beehives be allowed in World Heritage areas?

    Tasmania has some great timber for furniture and flooring. Forestry provides continuous jobs not just for the forestry workers but for small business (such as furniture making) which is together makes a large employer.
    Wilderness which no one can access employs few or no one.

    It certainly is not democratic to impose restrictions without informing the public and let them have a say on their future.

  7. cinders June 16, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

    The local media is reporting on the ‘hard work’ of the delegates at http://www.phnompenhpost.com/2013061466291/World-Heritage-Cambodia/kingdom-hosts-largest-ever-foreign-delegation.html
    I wonder if any of them will actually get time to read either this blog or the ICOMOS report or even check where in the world Tasmania actually is.
    Will the Australian delegation update the taxpayer on just which social event or tourist event they are attending?

  8. cinders June 24, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    WHC has just approved the minor boundary extension, over-ruling the ICOMOS objection but asking for the cultural studies to be conducted.
    There were no audible objections.
    June 24, 2013 1.29 pm AEST

    Normally the assessment of World Heritage follows proper process of consultation and assessment, however, Mr Burke to appease Bob Brown and the greens has used a loophole in the guidelines to push this massive extension, equal to 85,000 Melbourne Cricket Grounds, as a “minor adjustment” to the existing boundary.

    The World Heritage Committee should only consider an extension bid once all investigations have been properly conducted and reported. Treating this extension as minor is farcical.

    Australians should be appalled that external treaties power is again being used to shore up green preferences and to disregard cultural significance, deny local land use decision making, and to sabotage local industries and employment.


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