World Heritage Committee advised to reject Australian government's application to delist part of 2013 extension to Tasmania's Wilderness World Heritage Area; recommendation is expected to be adopted at committee's annual meeting in Qatar in June

, May 18, 2014 () – ENVIRONMENT groups will step up their “forest war” campaign to preserve Tasmania’s ­existing World Heritage area boundaries, following a humiliating rejection of the federal government’s ambitions to have them withdrawn.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has advised the World Heritage Committee to reject the Abbott government’s application, which it said had no merit.

The IUCN is the World Heritage Committee’s main advisory body and its recommendation is expected to be adopted at the committee’s annual meeting in Qatar next month, where a de­cision will also be made to keep an “in danger” watching brief on the Great Barrier Reef.

The federal government is seeking to remove 43 per cent of the area that was added to the Tasmanian forest World Heritage boundaries last year after more than two decades of lobbying.

Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt said Australia respected the view of the World Heritage Centre and advisory bodies to the World Heritage Committee and would “carefully consider and review the draft decision’’.

Mr Hunt said the government would continue to engage directly with the World Heritage Committee members on the boundary changes Australia was seeking.

He said the previous, Labor-Greens state government had not been co-operative in preparing the submission and it would work with the new Tasmanian government on the matter.

“The government believes the proposed revised boundary would achieve an appropriate balance of sustainable land uses in Tasmania’s forests and maintain the integrity of the outstanding universal value of the Tasmanian wilderness,’’ Mr Hunt said.

The IUCN was scathing in its rejection of the Abbott government’s bid to again redraw the boundaries. It did not accept arguments that the area to be excised consisted of plantation or previously logged areas which devalue the quality of the area overall.

“To the extent that the proposals would remove previously logged forests and plantations, IUCN notes that these occupy only 10 per cent of the area proposed for removal, and that these areas were explicitly identified for restoration in the previous boundary modification, considered by IUCN in its advice, and thus have been taken account of in the committee’s previous determination of the boundary,’’ the IUCN report said.

“IUCN further notes boundary modifications, whether minor or significant, should maintain or strengthen the recognition and protection of Outstanding Universal Value.

“IUCN recommends that should the state party wish to recommend further boundary modifications to the property, they should ensure that these strengthen the integrity and protection and management of the property.’’ Environment groups welcomed the recommendation. “We are going to be fighting tooth and nail to ensure this recommendation is upheld,’’ Wilderness ­Society national campaign director Lyndon Schneiders said.“We would like the federal government to recognise it has kept its election promise and drop the request. It is going to be an embarrassing process for Australia, it is going to be an unsuccessful process, so it is time to move on.”

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