Forest rebuff

THE federal government is determined to pursue its bid to delist 74,000 hectares of protected  Tasmanian forest, despite advice given to the World Heritage Committee to reject its application.

Richard Colbeck

Richard Colbeck

Yesterday  a draft decision  released by the UNESCO World Heritage Centre in Paris   recommended that the World Heritage Committee not allow the government to delist the area, previously approved by the Labor government last year.

Tasmanian Liberal Senator Richard Colbeck, Parliamentary Secretary to the Agriculture Minister, said the government would be working closely with the countries on the panel, because it believed the area should not have been listed in the first place.

He said the government knew that large sections of the area had been disturbed.

``The Greens and environment groups are looking to shut down the forestry industry, and this is part of the creeping acquisition process to do that,''  he said. 

``We support a balanced use of our natural resources, while ensuring that genuine high conservation values are protected.

``We have both the World Heritage protections and also the natural resource management tools to do that.''

Wilderness Society spokesman Vica Bayley said the federal government's proposal brought shame to the nation.

``The Australian government should pull this off the table before they cause more embarrassment and shame for Australia and waste the time of the World Heritage Committee,'' he said.

Tasmanian Resources Minister Paul Harriss said the advice given to the committee was a disappointment and would force the federal government to break an election promise.

``Delisting 74,000 hectares of forest locked up as part of the disastrous forest deal was an election commitment made by Tony Abbott and strongly endorsed by the Tasmanian people at the last federal election,'' he said.

Australian Greens leader Christine Milne said the proposal's rejection was ``the best possible outcome''.

``There was never any merit to the proposal,'' she said.

``It was always a cynical political strategy driven by Prime Minister Abbott and  Senators Eric Abetz and Richard Colbeck  to try to win federal seats and the Tasmanian state election.''

However, Western Tiers independent MLC Greg Hall said the former Labor government's decision to list the area last year was doomed from the start.

``The whole thing was a political construct because in some ways it was done to get the TFA (Tasmanian Forestry Agreement) across the line,'' he said.

``There were pay-offs to industries and appeasements to lobbyists.''

A final decision is expected to be made by the World Heritage Committee next month in Qatar.


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