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Tas wilderness to drop off government agenda


It’s been a tough few months for parts of Tasmania’s protected wilderness and the future also looks bleak according to the federal budget, which has copped criticism from some sectors of the island state. Sources: AAP, Nine News

Tasmania’s Wilderness World Heritage Area has staved off a push by state and federal governments for selective timber harvesting, but it was savaged by summer bushfires and is now due to drop off the national funding agenda.

The budget shows a flatlining allocation for management of the 1.6 million-hectare area, which represents a fifth of the island state and is protected by a division of the United Nations.

“(The federal government) have an obligation to fund the protection of Tasmania’s wilderness not just for Tasmania, not just for Australia, but for the global community,” Tasmanian Greens leader Cassy O’Connor said.

After receiving more than $5 million in 2015-16, management funding for the area will be wound back to zero by 2018-19 and beyond.

More than 20,000ha of the protected area was burnt over summer and decreased funding will mean an inability to carry out adequate fire mitigation or respond to the outbreak of future bushfires, Ms O’Connor said.

“This is a time at which the Commonwealth and state governments should be increasing funding to the World Heritage Area, not cutting it.”

Tasmanian parks and environment minister Matthew Groom rejected claims the area had been forgotten.

“There is a strong ongoing commitment to the World Heritage Area, including funding by the Commonwealth government,” he said, citing budget allocations of $8.7 million for 2015-16 and two subsequent years.

But Ms O’Connor said the lost funding was just one example in a budget, which lacked vision.

In state parliament Premier Will Hodgman faced criticism for failing to secure more dollars from Canberra, but the Liberal leader defended his federal colleagues.

“Fundamentally this is a good budget for Tasmania, it’s a plan for economic growth, it supports small business and when you consider that Tasmania’s economy is fuelled by the small business sector then this is going to have a significant benefit,” he said.

There is money for roadworks as part of a $200 million infrastructure package and Tasmania will share in a $2.9 billion national fund for public hospitals over the next three years.