Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Tasmania's precious forests protected forever

Media release
24 June 2013

Some of the Tasmania's most spectacular and precious areas of old growth native forest have been given the highest level of environmental protection following a decision by the World Heritage Committee.

The World Heritage Committee today accepted the Australian Government proposal to add more than 170 000 hectares to the World Heritage list protecting old growth forests areas in the Upper Florentine and areas within the Styx, Huon, Picton and Counsel River Valley.

Environment Minister Tony Burke said the nomination of a boundary extension for the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area was a key environmental outcome of the Tasmanian Forest Agreement.

"I have camped in and walked through these forests and they are some of the most amazing places on earth," Mr Burke said.

"If you look at the Styx in particular, there are trees that are the length of a football field going straight up. And this decision today means those extraordinary giants of the forest are added to the World Heritage list.

"These are extraordinarily precious areas of forest and they have been added through an agreement with industry which is worked through in a restructure for industry where forestry will continue in areas that are less contentious that don't have those same high level of conservation value," Mr Burke said.

"For the first time it's been done, not through a political process, but through a genuine community process where industry and environment groups came up together with a package that they thought would deliver what each of them wanted most.

"We have the conservation groups saying the high conservation areas are being protected and for the people who look at it from an industry perspective this is part of that entire package that has resulted in 30 years of conflict in Tasmanian forestry being resolved through an extraordinary agreement that made it through the stakeholders made it through the parliament and now has been endorsed by the WH committee as being a conservation outcome of international importance."

Mr Burke said while the natural values of the forests had been listed there was still more work to be done in protecting the cultural values.

"There are many sites of deep cultural significance within the world heritage boundary.

"The Australian Government is continuing its consultation with Indigenous communities in Tasmania to ensure these cultural values are considered at a future meeting of the World Heritage Committee.

"Work has begun on a study of the outstanding universal cultural values of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, including those areas within the new boundary."

This extension to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area means areas of exceptional beauty, particularly its majestic stands of tall eucalypt forests, glacial landforms and alpine and sub-alpine environments are now afforded the highest level of protection.

The boundary extension will significantly enhance the wet eucalypt forests within the property and will enhance the connection between its tall eucalypt forest and rainforest.

The Styx-Tyenna area contains the greatest concentration of these trees in the world.

Additional important habitat for rare and threatened species such as the endangered wedge-tailed eagle and the Tasmanian Devil are also included in the boundary extension. The Great Western Tiers are an important breeding ground for the endangered white form of the Grey Goshawk.

The new boundary also adds to the representation of the glacial features and processes in the World Heritage Area, including landforms which contain evidence of glacial movement along the Walls of Jerusalem and Central Plateau millions of years ago.

For more information on the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area go to http://www.environment.gov.au/heritage/places/world/tasmanian-wilderness/index.html