The head of the world’s leading conservation organisation has criticised the Australian government’s attempt to strip world heritage protection from Tasmania’s forests, as new data laid bare the vast number of ecosystems in Australia at risk of collapse.
Julia Marton-Lefèvre, director general of the IUCN, the body that advises the United Nations on conservation matters, told Guardian Australia it was “disappointing” that the Abbott government had launched a bid to remove 74,000ha of Tasmanian forest from world heritage protection.
A meeting in June of Unesco’s world heritage committee took just nine minutes to reject Australia’s proposal. Portugal’s delegate heaped further embarrassment upon the Coalition by calling its rationale for the removal “feeble”.
“Australia on the whole has a very good record on protected areas [but] there are challenges, such as the Tasmanian issues,” Marton-Lefèvre said. “They aren’t the first country to try to take away a commitment, but it would send a bad message if the world heritage committee allowed Australia to do that.
“They didn’t allow them to do that, they didn’t allow them to regress, and that listing should not be revised. I’m disappointed that any government would try that but I believe Australia has accepted the decision.”