UNESCO concerned at Tasmanian Government rezoning wilderness areas to allow development
UNESCO has urged the Tasmanian Government to produce its Tourism Master Plan. (Supplied: Dan Broun)
The UNESCO World Heritage Committee has raised concerns about Tasmania’s wilderness areas being rezoned for tourism developments and called on the State Government to speed up a Tourism Master Plan requested in 2015.
Conservationists said a recent UNESCO document highlighted serious risks to Tasmania’s wilderness brand.
The draft decision, published by the World Heritage Committee this week, welcomed the implementation of some recommendations made after a 2015 Reactive Monitoring Mission to Tasmania’s Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA).
But the committee has urged the Tasmanian Government to expedite development of a Tourism Master Plan, which was first called for in 2015.
“Limited progress has been achieved to date with the development of a Tourism Master Plan,” the committee said in the recent analysis.
“While the timeline for its finalisation by December 2019 is noted, it is of concern that this key strategic document is still lacking.”
In the document, the committee also raised concerns about the State Government’s rezoning of some wilderness areas to allow for tourism opportunities and wider aircraft access.
The report refers to areas being changed from “wilderness” to “remote recreation”, which the Wilderness Society’s Vica Bayley understands refers to new “self-reliant recreation zones”.
Mr Bayley said rezoning had occurred near Lake Malbena, in the Walls of Jerusalem National Park, where a “luxury standing camp” has been proposed.
“Also down the Overland Track and indeed at Lake Rodway, at Cradle Mountain,” he said.
“It seems that the Government here has been called out — the World Heritage Committee has identified that this switch is of concern and they’re urging for it to be fixed.
“This risks our reputation, it risks our credibility on the international stage and it sends a signal of contempt.”
Delays to the wilderness plan puts Tasmania’s credibility at risk, says the Wilderness Society. (Vaughan Cruickshank)
‘Halt proposals until plan is in place’
Tasmanian Greens senator Nick McKim said the report was “totally embarrassing” for the Tasmanian Government.
“It shows that they’re prepared to treat the United Nations with utter contempt, and instead favour their corporate mates who simply want to turn a profit out of an area that was actually protected to look after its natural and cultural heritage values,” he said.
Both Senator McKim and Mr Bayley said any tourism proposal assessments should be halted until a Tourism Master Plan was in place.
In a statement, a government spokesman said there was a TWWHA management plan in place to manage the area, and the Tourism Master Plan was on target for completion by December 2019.
“The Government has always maintained that only sensitive and appropriate tourism developments would be allowed, provided the proponent obtained all the necessary state and Commonwealth planning approvals,” he said.
The spokesman said a “wilderness” zone applied to about 82 per cent of the TWWHA.
“The zone boundaries within the TWWHA plan were developed following extensive consultation and public input and have been approved by the Commonwealth Government and endorsed by the World Heritage Committee.”