Friday, 08 February 2013 08:05
Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke has backed away from including the entire Tarkine wilderness region in Tasmania on the national heritage list.
Instead it will list the area's indigenous values only.
"I acknowledge that my decision today is not the outcome for the Tarkine that many groups were seeking," Minister Burke said in a statement this morning.
"I have tried to find a boundary which would incorporate the natural values without delivering unacceptable social and economic outcomes."
Mr Burke noted Tasmania had the highest unemployment rate in the country.
"I simply haven't been able to find a way to recognise the natural heritage values with a boundary that will find a balance."
As a result, Mr Burke has decided only to put the indigenous values on the national heritage list.
Some of the Tarkine forest areas not included in the listing would potentially receive higher levels of protection in the agreement sitting with the Tasmanian parliament, Mr Burke said.
"Any environmental decisions within the area will still fully cover the needs of threatened species such as the Tassie devil," he said.
Mr Burke said he had visited the Tarkine twice during the past year meeting with local mining and industry groups to understand the economic development issues of the region.
He also camped with environment groups.
"There has never been an issue in my time as environment minister where my views have changed so fundamentally after a site visit," he said.
"I was expecting to see a pristine area pretty much covered in rainforest."
The truth of the industrial history and current industrial activity in the Tarkine was quite different to those images, Mr Burke said.
The region's federal MP Sid Sidebottom says the decision is good news for the area.
It preserved important Aboriginal cultural sites while ensuring the region continued to provide critical jobs, recreational and tourism opportunities and was available for responsible, sustainable economic development, he said.
"This has always been about striking a balance and ensuring our region has a prosperous future," Mr Sidebottom said in a statement.
"Mining has been and should be part of the history and economic future for this region - and this will mean jobs for our people."
The Labor MP congratulated the AWU, which ran a campaign against wider protection for the Tarkine.
The Tarkine, home to Australia's largest remaining single tract of Gondwanan rainforest, was listed as a national heritage area in December 2009 following an emergency national heritage listing.
Mr Burke allowed the listing to lapse a year later in the face of numerous mining proposals for the region.
The Greens and conservation groups have been pushing the federal government to make the listing permanent, criticising the time it has taken to reassess its status.
They say it fulfils eight of 10 criteria for becoming a world heritage area - only the second place in the world that would do so - but only five per cent is protected in national parks.
The Tarkine has been home to mining for more than a century and 10 new mines, some open-cut, are planned for the area in the next five years, according to the Tarkine National Coalition.
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