The Bob Brown Foundation gathered approximately 2,000 people Sunday to help rally against removal of 74,000 hectares of forests from the World Heritage List in the Upper Florentine Valley in Tasmania. The area is part of the 170,000 hectares added into the highly protected, area which was decided in Phnom Penh, Cambodia last year.
Australia’s current government proposed the removal as it intends to use the area for logging. The proposal has been submitted to the UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee and the decision will be announced around June 15-25 in Doha.
The Bob Brown Foundation said the area is largely intact with tall eucalyptus forests and karst (underground cave formations) as well as significant geomorphological features and areas of significant Aboriginal heritage.
However, Prime Minister Tony Abbott reiterates his government’s mission, first and foremost, is to get back into business, especially with the historic Free Trade Agreements (FTA) he recently signed with Japan and Korea, while an FTA with China is also being worked out.
In his address to the 2014 Forest Works Dinner in Canberra last month, Abbott told the timber industry that his government is working for the removal of the 74,000 hectares of forest from the heritage listing. He said,”One of the first acts of the incoming Government was to begin the process to try to get out of world heritage listing 74,000 hectares of country in Tasmania, because that 74,000 hectares is not pristine forest. It’s forest which has been logged, it’s forest which has been degraded, in some cases, it’s plantation timber that was actually planted to be logged.”
Abbott convinced timber investors that 74,000 hectares out of the world heritage listing will “still leave half of Tasmania protected forever.” He assured that his government respects the timber industry and that it wants the timber industry to have a vigorous and dynamic future. “We want the timber industry to be a vital part of Australia’s economic future, not just something that was a relic of our history. That’s what this Government wants,” he said.
The Bob Brown Foundation’s campaign manager Jenny Weber said, “Today’s outstanding turnout in the Upper Florentine forests clearly shows that Australians are very proud of their World Heritage forests. We are sending a strong message to UNESCO that we love our spectacular forests of outstanding universal value, and the Australian community will stand up to defend them.”
Rally speakers included Australian Greens Senator Christine Milne, Markets for Change CEO Peg Putt, Still Wild Still Threatened’s Miranda Gibson, and Home and Away actor Lisa Gormley.