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TWWHA Cultural Assessment

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 3 March 2022

Tags: Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, UNESCO, Aboriginal Heritage


A damning decision by UNESCO in 2021 into the state of conservation of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area was quietly published on DPIPWE's website on 3 February this year. Decision 44, paragraph 7 of that report urges the state party, that is Tasmania, to avoid any development of the property before the detailed plan for comprehensive cultural assessment is implemented.

The detailed plan is missing and the cultural assessment is not done, yet the Government ploughs ahead with its divisive EOI process to turn the TWWHA into a property developer's free for all in places like Lake Malbena and the South Coast Track, running roughshod over the wishes of UNESCO and any spirit of consensus with the Tasmanian Aboriginal people.

The report is full of motherhood statements about respect and inclusion but it has failed on this crucial component of managing our wilderness world heritage area. Would this be because the Government is anticipating that any advice in a cultural heritage assessment be that no private development should occur within the TWWHA?

Where is this assessment? How can the Government truly enter into a treaty process and truth telling with the palawa/pakana when such an important response has failed to deliver guidelines to conform to international best practice?



Mr Speaker, I thank the member for the question. We are well aware of UNESCO's decision in regard to the State Party Report that was adopted at the 44th session in China. We welcomed the fact that they acknowledged our progress towards implementing the requests of the World Heritage Centre for the TWWHA, including the recommendations of the 2015 reactive monitoring mission of the property.

Some elements of the draft decision required clarification from the Australian Government as to how the decisions would be implemented. The concerns expressed were about the Tourism Master Plan and the draft decision and how that related to previous decisions of the TMP.

We clarified this decision with the World Heritage Centre. The State Party referred this to the World Heritage Centre in relation to development in the TWWHA. We checked with them in regards to the decision as worded by the World Heritage Centre to abort any development at the property before the detailed plan for a comprehensive cultural assessment of the Tasmanian World Heritage area is implemented. The wording of that decision was confusing and both us and the Commonwealth Government expressed concerns that the decision could be interpreted to imply that all development was to be halted until the assessment is completed.

The World Heritage Centre has since clarified this matter in a letter to the Australian Government dated 6 October 2021, noting that any development should be interpreted in the spirit of paragraph 172 of the operational guidelines of the implementation at the World Heritage Convention. That is, it was only intended to apply to major restorations or new constructions which may affect the outstanding universal value of the property. The advice further states that any essential maintenance or activities that are consistent with the 2016 management plan and support the property's outstanding universal value would be considered acceptable.

The state's impact assessment process is being continued to be applied as they always have and if a project is found to have a significant impact on the outstanding universal values, it will be referred in accordance with the Commonwealth's Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 with the State Party determining which development proposals will be referred to the World Heritage Centre and advisory bodies.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Mr Speaker, standing order 45 to relevance. Could the minister please let the Tasmanian Aboriginal people know where the cultural heritage assessment is at?

Mrs PETRUSMA - I was getting to that, Ms O'Connor, thank you.

We were commended for the work done to deliver a comprehensive cultural assessment for the 2000 extension area in the TWWHA. The Tasmanian Government is fully committed to the implementation of the detailed plan, but it is a multi-year plan that is to be carried out in stages over the 10-year duration of the 2016 management plan for the property.

As the State Party already reports to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre on projects that may cause a significant impact to World Heritage properties, such as the TWWHA, this fulfils the requirements of the World Heritage Centre.

The Tasmanian and Australian governments preside over robust system of development assessment which is subject to rigorous scrutiny under local, state and commonwealth assessment processes. We have a management plan that was approved by the World Heritage Centre which requires comprehensive assessments of cultural values for any development.

Our Tourism Master Plan, which I released last year, has raised the bar on these assessments by requiring early engagement with Aboriginal Heritage Tasmania and the Aboriginal Heritage Centre.

To suggest that the State Party avoid all development until all cultural assessments for the entire TWWHA is complete is impractical and unnecessary.