Blow to tourism image

PEOPLE in and around Tasmania's 74,000 hectares of World Heritage-listed forest agree that the state government's conflict with environmental groups over the forest's future has tarnished Tasmania's tourism image.

However, the state government has again aligned itself with the views of the federal government, with Environment Minister Matthew Groom labelling the suggestions "delusional".

Last week Wilderness Society campaign manager Vica Bayley said Tasmania's "eco clean green" image was at stake ahead of today's World Heritage Area decision in Qatar. A final declaration will be made over the future of the 74,000ha site during the next two weeks, with the World Heritage Committee meeting lobbyists in Doha today.

Meander Valley Mayor Craig Perkins said on Wednesday that the debate surrounding the area was a "concern" but he was confident that the forest would continue to thrive, regardless of its status and use.

"The emotive language that different sides of the argument use is a concern, but in terms of World Heritage listing and the opportunity for tourism, I don't believe the outcome will have a great impact," he said.

"You still choose to use the environment in the best way you can, regardless of whether it is listed or not. You should protect the forest, regardless of whatever regime it's under."

Mountain Huts Preservation Society president Roger Nutting, who manages a number of huts on the border of the heritage-listed forest, said the 74,000ha site had been stuck in limbo for years.

"It's almost like we can't seem to arrive at any real conclusion to anything we seem to study," he said.

"There's been conflict over the forests for years ... and we get to a point where all the major players come to an agreement, but then we get a change of government and they unravel it all until we get back to disagreement again.

"I do have concerns (about tourism) in some parts of Tasmania."

But any concern over the state's tourism potential was shot down by Environment Minister Groom.

"Tasmanians are sick and tired of Green groups and the anti-everything brigade getting in the way of opportunity for Tasmania," he said.

"To suggest that the Liberals have a plan to industrialise our World Heritage Area and our national parks is either delusional or deliberate mischief- making."

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