Image for Senate inquiry into move to gut recent World Heritage forests listing

The Australian Senate has agreed to a motion moved by the Australian Greens seeking a Senate inquiry into the decision by the Abbott government to seek the removal of significant sections of recent additions to the Tasmanian World Heritage Area.

The motion in the Senate, which was moved by Christine Milne, stated:

That the following matters be referred to the Environment and Communications References Committee for inquiry and report by 15 May 2014:

(a) the natural world heritage values of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area minor boundary extension passed by the World Heritage Committee in June 2013;

(b) the interaction between the Department of the Environment and the Prime Minister and other ministers’ offices, and the process followed in the department’s review of the 2013 extension that led to a lesser minor boundary extension being submitted for consideration at the 2014 World Heritage Committee meeting;

(c) any action the Department of Environment has funded, directed and overseen to rehabilitate any degraded areas within the World Heritage Area identified in the department’s 2013 review, as per the requirements of the World Heritage Convention;

(d) the extent and description of any areas of degraded forest included in the 2013 boundary adjustment and the World Heritage Committee’s rationale for including them;

(e) implications for the World Heritage status of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area of the Government’s request to withdraw the 74 000 hectares for logging; and

(f) any related matter.

The day before the motion for a Senate inquiry the Senate had agreed to a motion which was moved by Greens Senator Rachel Siewert on behalf of Greens leader Christine Milne. The motion stated:

That the Senate—

(a) condemns the Abbott Government for its attempt to reduce the size of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area by 74 000 hectares to enable logging of high conservation value forests;

(b) supports the findings of the World Heritage Committee That the areas proposed for excision satisfy World Heritage criteria;

(c) notes that commercial markets reject timber products from primary native forests as unsustainable and uncertified;

(d) understands That the Abbott Government’s proposed boundary adjustments are not based on evidence that this area does not contain world heritage values;

(e) supports the 2013 boundary modification; and

(f) calls on the World Heritage Committee to reject the request to reduce the size of the World Heritage Area.