Fire reports a tourism concern

THE state’s peak tourism body has called for calm over the reporting of fire damage to Tasmania’s wild areas, following interstate media attention labelling it a global tragedy.

Fires have ravaged through about 95,000 hectares of land, but the Tasmania Fire Service says of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, 18,000 hectares has been burnt, which is only 1 per cent of the world heritage area.

The fires in the TWWHA trended on Facebook for more than 24 hours, and gained attention from major interstate and international news organisations.

Tourism Industry Council Tasmania chief executive Luke Martin said the ‘‘over-zealous’’ reporting could be damaging.

‘‘We know from previous fire incidents in Tasmania, the economic impact of the fires is only compounded by over-zealous reporting about the physical impact of the fires,’’ Mr Martin said.

‘‘The fires over the last fortnight have clearly had a devastating impact on specific areas in the Central Highlands and Great Western Tiers, and should serve as a wake-up call to policy makers and the general community about the irreplaceable value and fragility of our globally unique environment,’’ he said.

But Mr Martin said it was important to ‘‘keep perspective’’ and the reports gave the impression that large swathes of the area had been permanently altered.

‘‘This is not accurate and has the potential to undermine the desire to visit these areas and devalue their significance,’’ he said.

‘‘The Overland Track, Dove Lake, Walls of Jerusalem and other icons have not been impacted by the fires.’’

Environmental scientists have estimated that 8000 hectares of rainforest has been burnt.

Tasmanian Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson said the fires should be a wake-up call.

‘‘The climate is changing and we need to change our approach,’’ Senator Whish-Wilson said.

‘‘We are going to see more extreme weather events and we have to learn from this and have a strategy in place,’’ he said.

Senator Whish-Wilson said politics needed to be put aside and an inquiry should be set up to review the fires and create a strategy to minimise future damage.

Data gathered by scientists showed the fires area was split evenly between private land and protected areas, such as reserves and the TWWHA.

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