Conservationists are already turning their attention to the Tasmanian government’s own wind-back of wilderness protection.
Environmentalists are aiming to save another 400,000 hectares of Tasmanian forests from potential logging after the UN maintained its protection over large areas of the state.
Green groups are celebrating the decision of the UN’s World Heritage Committee to throw out an unprecedented federal government request to delist 74,000 hectares from Tasmania’s World Heritage Area.
Meeting in Doha, the committee took less than 10 minutes to unanimously reject the proposal, describing it as “feeble”.
But conservationists are already turning their attention to the Tasmanian government’s attempt to remove 400,000 hectares from other reserves across the state.
“We really want to see the Hodgman government realise that the international community does greatly value our forests and our natural heritage, and really take a pause and rethink their approach,” Environment Tasmania’s Phill Pullinger told AAP.
“There’s still a major problem.”
Under Tasmania’s historic peace deal between environmentalists and the timber industry signed in 2012, both areas were to be protected.
About 170,000 hectares were added to the state’s 1.5 million-hectare World Heritage Area.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott campaigned on winding back that area at last year’s election and federal environment minister Greg Hunt submitted the government’s proposal in February.
Will Hodgman’s Liberal state government was elected in March on the back of a policy to tear up the peace deal.
Legislation making 400,000 hectares available for logging in six years’ time has passed the lower house.
“The Tasmanian government still wants to roll back protections and log other iconic forests, such as the Blue Tier, Tarkine, Bruny Island, Tasman, Reedy Marsh and the North-East Highlands,” Wilderness Society campaigner Vica Bayley said.
“These forests were protected under the landmark peace deal struck between conservationists, the timber industry and workers that delivered certainty for the timber industry and ended decades of conflict.”
Premier Hodgman said his government would abide by the World Heritage Committee decision but promised to press ahead with his own wind-back.
“When we went to the election we had our own forests policy aligned with the federal government’s,” Mr Hodgman told parliament.
“It’s also important to note that we won that election as well, and we intend to deliver on our commitments.”
Tasmania’s upper house is due to consider the Hodgman government’s forestry repeal bill this week.
Mr Hunt said the federal government had honoured its election commitment by requesting the “minor boundary modification”.
“Australia accepts and will consider the decision of the World Heritage Committee,” he said in a statement.
Labor’s environment spokesman Mark Butler said the proposal should never have gone to the committee.
“Australians do not support Tony Abbott’s `dig it up, chop it down’ attitude,” he said.
Greens leader Christine Milne called it a win for common sense while her predecessor, Bob Brown, said the government had peddled a “lie” that the forests were degraded by logging.
“This is the lowest point in the history of Australian environmental diplomacy,” Dr Brown said.
“Abbott’s failed mission has sullied the nation’s great history of upholding the World Heritage Convention over the last four decades.”