On 1 February 2012 the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA). This report provides detailed information on a number of nature conservation issues, including the management of adjoining forestry operations, the status of mineral licenses and rehabilitation, as well as climate change, the status of the Orange-bellied parrot and biosecurity concerns. It also provides information on resources for Aboriginal cultural heritage, and the re-formation of the property consultative committee.
a) Ongoing forestry operations adjacent to the property
The State Party’s report provides details on the implementation of the Committee’s request to create a mechanism to monitor, assess and manage the impact of forestry operations, road construction and regeneration on the integrity of TWWHA, and adjoining reserves, involving all relevant stakeholders (see 32 COM 7B.41, 34 COM 7B.38). In particular, the State Party highlights its commitment to ensure that significant iconic areas adjacent to TWWHA are given interim protection from logging activities, while an independent verification process is undertaken to assess the values of these areas, including the Upper Florentine, and areas within the Styx, Huon, Picton and Counsel River Valleys. This commitment is reflected in the revised Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreement (TFIA), approved in 2011. The State Party notes that following verification, the Tasmanian Government will provide legislative protection to areas that are identified as being of conservation value. It is intended to provide this protection through appropriate forms of land tenure, which may possibly include nomination of appropriate areas for inclusion in the property.
The State Party considers that the TFIA is an appropriate mechanism for the conservation and sustainable management of public native forests, including those adjoining the property, and that the forestry management system addresses potential adverse impacts from forestry operations adjoining the property, e.g. through the application of the Tasmanian Forest Practices Code. Issues related to the property’s integrity are monitored and reported via the State of Tasmanian World Heritage Area Report. The State Party notes that the revision of this report in 2014 is intended to feed into the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Management Plan reviewin 2015, which will be undertaken in consultation with all stakeholders including the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Consultative Committee.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies would like to add that an Australian Senator submitted a letter to the Chair of the World Heritage Committee on 14 February 2012. This letter provides a detailed list of 18 logging coupes in forests reserves adjoining the property (totaling approximately 580-820 ha) that are exempt from interim protection, i.e. logging is permitted. These coupes are listed as exempt under the commitment made under the Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreement in August 2011. Areas affected include the Styx, Huon, Picton and Counsel Areas. This matter was raised before the Australian Parliament in February 2012 and a number of these coupes have been partially logged or are scheduled for exploitation in 2012.
b) Mineral exploration, exploitation and rehabilitation
The State Party reaffirms its agreement that mining is not appropriate in World Heritage properties and reports that mining issues have been resolved, and all remaining leases voluntarily relinquished. The State Party also reports that it has submitted a minor boundary modification proposal to incorporate the Southwest Conservation Area (Melaleuca-Cox Bright) within the property now that the Adamsfield mining licenses have expired. This completes the State Party’s 2010 extension proposal. The details of this proposal are discussed in document WHC-12/36.COM/8B.Add. The State Party is planning to rehabilitate the mining sites in the Southwest Conservation Area, and to exclude this area from the Tasmanian Mineral Resources Development Act 1995 in order to preclude the granting of any future mineral licenses. IUCN notes that it has received reports of a mining proposal in the Tarkine Area outside the property’s boundaries, and that it is unclear whether this area has been granted interim protection under the Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreement. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that the Committee should request clarifications on these points.
c) Other nature conservation issues
The State Party reports on a number of other nature conservation issues, including climate change, the status of the Orange-bellied Parrot, biosecurity and introduced species, the restoration of Lake Fidler, the Basslink undersea cable, and proposals for tourism development at Lake St Clair.
Of these issues, climate change remains a long-term threat to the property and the State Party reports that a 10 year program to monitor it impacts on flora values has been developed to inform management actions (a similar assessment for fauna remains a priority). The State Party notes that the Orange-bellied Parrot, which forms part of the property’s OUV, is critically endangered and, without successful intervention, is likely to be extinct in the wild by 2015. It is hoped that the implementation of the 2010 Action Plan for this species will slow its decline and support its recovery. Lastly, the State Party reports that the biosecurity issues affecting Tasmania may threaten the property. A program was established in 2011 to reduce the spread of invasive pathogens and introduced species, including the devil face tumor disease, which may be spreading into the property through the construction of new roads including logging roads in forests adjoining the TWWHA.
d) Cultural heritage issues
In response to the Committee’s recommendation to augment property staff with cultural heritage specialists in order to ensure the adequate protection and management of cultural sites both within the property and immediately outside the boundaries, the State Party report notes that the level of baseline funding directed to management of Aboriginal cultural values has been maintained and additional special project funds have been provided including for: the interpretation and monitoring of cave art.
e) Property Area Advisory Committee
The State Party reports that the Consultative Committee for the property will be re-formed and renamed as the Area Advisory Committee. It will include representatives of key interest areas.