World Environment Day statement from Australian environment groups

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June 5, 2014: This year, the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Wilderness Society, WWF – Australia and the Places You Love Alliance have released the following statement.

“As environment groups representing around 1.5 million Australians, we are deeply concerned about the security of Australia’s World Heritage areas on this World Environment Day 2014.

Photo: Ngaire McGaw

Photo: Ngaire McGaw

The United Nation’s World Heritage register recognises the most awe-inspiring places on Earth – the Great Barrier Reef, the Great Wall of China, the Sydney Opera House, the Grand Canyon, the Eiffel Tower and Tasmania’s magnificent forests – destinations that drive billion-dollar tourism industries.

We believe Australia has a legal and moral obligation to preserve its World Heritage sites for all humanity for all time.

We are not alone in this belief. A May 2014 poll conducted by Lonergan Research shows 97 per cent of Australians believe governments should do all they can to protect natural places on the World Heritage register.

But the jewels in Australia’s World Heritage crown are at risk. The UN’s World Heritage Committee has continued to express serious concern about Australia’s management of the Great Barrier Reef since 2011. This year’s decision to approve the dredging and dumping of 3 million cubic metres of sludge in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area is a further blow to the reef and to everyone who loves this renowned natural wonder of the world. There is a strong and disturbing possibility that, within the next 12 months, the World Heritage Committee will decide to downgrade the Great Barrier Reef’s status to ‘in danger’.

Tasmania’s superb World Heritage forests are under even more immediate threat, with the Federal Government attempting to have the UN World Heritage Committee de-list 74,000 hectares of forest, so the area can be opened to logging.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government is devolving the power to assess, approve and enforce projects impacting World Heritage areas to state and local governments. State and local governments should not be left in charge of our iconic World Heritage areas.

Countries campaign for years, sometimes decades, to make the World Heritage list. Not only would it bring shame to Australia if Tasmania’s forests were removed from the World Heritage list and the Great Barrier Reef listed as ‘in danger’, but it would damage our international reputation, our economy and the environment we leave to our children.

Our World Heritage sites are part of what makes us Australian. We strongly urge the Federal Government to re-think its approach to Australia’s World Heritage sites.”

Kelly O’Shanassy, CEO, Australian Conservation Foundation

Lyndon Schneiders, National Director, The Wilderness Society

Dermot O’Gorman, CEO, WWF-Australia

Glen Klatovsky, Director, Places You Love Alliance

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