Federal Government submission to the World Heritage Committee misleading on legal protection for threatened species

The Australian Government’s proposal to UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee to reduce the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) is misleading, missing key information and should be withdrawn, according to the Australian Network of Environmental Defender’s Offices (ANEDO).

13 March 2014

In a submission to a senate inquiry, ANEDO said the Australian Government’s proposal to the World Heritage Committee did not provide relevant maps and detailed descriptions of the areas it referred to as “degraded”, “logged”, “disturbed” or “contains plantations”.

The ANEDO submission says the Australian Government proposal also incorrectly suggests there would be legal protection for threatened species, such as the Tasmanian Devil, in the 74,000 hectares which it has requested be removed from the TWWHA.

The Government’s proposal states: “Management prescriptions in recovery plans for species listed under the EPBC Act (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999) must be adhered to in forestry operations both in, and outside of, regions covered by Regional Forest Agreements”.

The ANEDO submission describes this statement as “misleading” and says: “It is incorrect to say that management prescriptions in recovery plans [for threatened species] ‘must be adhered to’ in regions covered by the Regional Forest Agreements”.

The area proposed for removal from World Heritage status is within a region covered by the Tasmanian Regional Forestry Agreement (RFA). “The effect of this is to exempt forestry operations from the EPBC Act,” the ANEDO submission says. The Federal EPBC Act provides legal protection for threatened species in Australia.

“In fact, under the EPBC Act, the only circumstances in which threatened species within an RFA region would be protected via application of the management prescriptions is where that area is World Heritage listed,” the ANEDO submission states.
The areas proposed to be removed from the TWWHA include habitat for threatened species including the Spotted-tail Quoll and endangered Tasmanian Devil.

Submissions to the Federal Senate inquiry closed on Friday and it will report on the government proposal on May 15. A copy of the ANEDO submission is here: http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Environment_and_Communications/Tasmanian_Wilderness_World_Heritage_Area/Submissions

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Adam Beeson 03- 6223 2770 adam.beeson@tas.edo.org.au