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Interview with Marius Benson, ABC News Radio
7 November 2008
BARTHOLOMEW: Well, the rugged mountains of the high country around Mt Kosciusko, celebrated in verse by Banjo Patterson, and on film, are receiving a new acknowledgement today - they've been placed on the National Heritage List.
The listing is being announced by the Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett later today, but he's speaking now to Marius Benson.
BENSON: Peter Garrett, the area involved in this heritage listing has been described as being, down by Kosciusko where the pine-clad ridges raise their torn and rugged battlements on high; where the air is clear as crystal and the white stars fairly blaze at midnight in the cold and frosty sky.
Is that a fair description?
GARRETT: Oh, great poetry Marius; but yes it is. I think the Australian Alps, not only do they resonate because of the literature that's been written and inspired by it, but it's a spectacular part of Australia, steeped in history; and, crossing three borders, this is a really important national heritage list, and I think it'll be extremely well received right around the country.
BENSON: And what's the significance in practical terms of this listing? Does it mean anything in terms of what development is allowed there or other issues?
GARRETT: The National Heritage List is an identification of our most valued natural and indigenous and historic heritage sites. So, that list is a critical marker for us. It's also a critical identifier for tourism and for visitors and for communities. It also does mean that the national environment legislation itself applies in respect of places that are nationally heritage listed.
So, if there's going to be a significant impact on the heritage values of a development, then the EPBC Act would come into play. I think the critical thing about the list Marius is that it provides us with an opportunity of actually identifying those places which are genuinely special; have got very high value; and there's also a network of managers who work through the list and who make sure that the heritage and cultural and natural values of the area continue to be well looked after.
BENSON: And some environmental groups are pointing to this as an area that is particularly fragile and particularly vulnerable to climate change; is that correct?
GARRETT: Yes it is. I mean, we don't have much high country in Australia. Here we have an area, the Australian Alps, what, some 1.6 million hectares. There's a number of national parks and reserves. But, given that we're above 2000 metres in some places, these alpine and sub-alpine ecosystems are both rare, and because they've evolved slowly over time, in isolation, pretty exposed to the likely impacts of climate change.
And you think of, you know, fantastic wildflower arrays - the willow herbs and the southern heaths. You think about the bogong moths; you think about the snow gums and the mountain pygmy possums. Now, we've got really critical and important habitat in these areas.
So, I think this listing gives us an additional tool in the kit bag as we manage landscapes in the face of climate change.
BENSON: Peter Garrett, this listing is one of the issues on the agenda for a meeting of Environment Ministers in Adelaide today. Another is on packaging in, and particularly recycling of package - are you happy with the pace at which Australia is recycling materials from packaging at the moment?
GARRETT: I think we can do better Marius. I think we've got an approach in place which people have basically consented to work with. And I recognise it's something which the community wants to see more of. I think we can do better.
But we'll have an opportunity to review the material that comes forward to us from the packaging covenant. There's been some debate about whether or not there are additional measures that'll make it go quicker. I want to have that discussion with Environment Ministers today in Adelaide, and, on the basis of the material and the information that's come back to us, we'll give it some really good thought.
BENSON: Okay, I'll leave it there. Peter Garrett, thank you very much.
GARRETT: Thanks Marius.
BARTHOLOMEW: The Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett, speaking there with Marius Banjo Benson.