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Conservationists alert UNESCO of Australian Government’s move to weaken legal protection for heritage sites

Conservationists alert UNESCO of Australian Government’s move to weaken legal protection for heritage sites
September 7, 2020

Australian conservation groups have written to the Director-General of UNESCO, warning the international body of “alarming moves by the Australian Government to weaken legal protection for Australia’s 20 World Heritage listed properties.”

The letter is signed by the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Australian Marine Conservation Society, Birdlife Australia, the Bob Brown Foundation, the Colong Foundation for Wilderness, Environmental Justice Australia, Fight For Our Reef, Humane Society International Australia, Protect Ningaloo, Queensland Conservation Council, Tasmanian Conservation Trust, the Wilderness Society and WWF Australia.

The letter advises UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azouley that the Australian Government “is rushing a bill through the Australian Parliament that would hand its national development approval powers… to state and territory (provincial) governments.”

As a ratified signatory to the World Heritage Convention, the Australian Government has international legal responsibility to identify, protect, conserve and transmit to future generations its World Heritage sites, which include the Great Barrier Reef, the Gondwana Rainforests, the Ningaloo Coast, the Tasmanian Wilderness and the Wet Tropics.

Australian Conservation Foundation Chief Executive, Kelly O’Shanassy advises “Australia’s World Heritage Areas are important homes for threatened wildlife like the koala, the cassowary and the grey-headed flying fox, but the plan to hand environmental powers to states and territories would make these species and their habitats more vulnerable than ever.”

Environmental Justice Australia co-Chief Executive, Nicola Rivers notes “weakening legal protection for these areas – some of the most important and significant natural and cultural sites in the world – would be an international shame for Australia and send a shocking message that one of the wealthiest nations can’t manage to safeguard its 20 World Heritage sites.”

Wilderness Society National Laws Campaign Manager, Suzanne Milthorpe adds “It’s clear protections for Australia’s globally unique natural and cultural heritage are sorely lacking and we’re looking to the Morrison Government to demonstrate that it is willing and able to address these shortcomings.”

Birdlife Australia Chief Executive,Paul Sullivan agrees with the above other conservationists and explains “Australia played a key role in securing World Heritage listing for migratory bird sanctuaries in China’s Yellow Sea, but we risk losing World Heritage sites in our own backyard if state governments and greedy developers get their hands on Australia’s nature laws.”

The letter is signed by the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Australian Marine Conservation Society, Birdlife Australia, the Bob Brown Foundation, the Colong Foundation for Wilderness, Environmental Justice Australia, Fight For Our Reef, Humane Society International Australia, Protect Ningaloo, Queensland Conservation Council, Tasmanian Conservation Trust, the Wilderness Society and WWF Australia.

Image of Gondwana Rainforests courtesy of Tourism Queensland.
The Gondwana Rainforests of Australia is a serial property comprising the major remaining areas of rainforest in southeast Queensland and northeast New South Wales. It represents outstanding examples of major stages of the Earth’s evolutionary history, ongoing geological and biological processes, and exceptional biological diversity. A wide range of plant and animal lineages and communities with ancient origins in Gondwana, many of which are restricted largely or entirely to the Gondwana Rainforests, survive in this collection of reserves. The Gondwana Rainforests also provides the principal habitat for many threatened species of plants and animals.

Related Articles

20th July 2020 - Federal Government rejects independent regulator recommendation in interim report into Australia’s environmental laws

26th August 2020 - The Environmental Defenders Office identifies NSW law failures to protect koalas

28th July 2020 - Virtual gathering at Asia’s largest sustainable tourism event pushes for environmental action

15th January 2020 - Environmental and wildlife organisations meet to steer recovery process following bushfires

8th November 2019 - Western Australian Government calls for Federal action on critical environmental issues

12th August 2019 - New Zealand partnership supports tourism industry environmental sustainability

3rd July 2019 - Federal Environment Minister grants woodlands protection after years of delay by predecessors

27th August 2020 - Ningaloo World Heritage area wins reprieve from new oil and gas exploration

27th July 2020 - Pilbara cultural heritage site saved by rock art discovery


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