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Senate Supports Independent Inquiry into Tasmanian World Heritage Area Bushfires

Media Release
Nick McKim 22 Feb 2016

The Senate has today supported an independent inquiry into the fires in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

The motion notes the damage already done by the fires, and calls for an independent inquiry into the response to the fires, and to inform improved planning and preparation for future fires.

“Only governments can establish the kind of inquiry this motion calls for, so the pressure is now firmly on Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman to take the issue seriously.”

“We are already seeing the effects of global warming across Tasmania, and we need to prepare for our hot, dry summer to become the new normal,” Australian Greens Senator for Tasmania Nick McKim said.

“The World Heritage Area contains ecosystems found nowhere else on the planet, and globally significant cultural and natural heritage values. It is also one of Tasmania’s most important and valuable tourism assets, and we need to learn lessons from the current crisis so that we can better protect it in the future.”

“I visited the area with Senator Richard Di Natale last week, and we saw where charred landscapes have replaced ancient ecosystems that have stood since Gondwanan times.”

“Some areas burned in the current fires are not fire adapted, and with long-term rainfall decrease in most Tasmanian alpine areas along with increased dry lightning strikes predicted, we’ve got a real problem on our hands.”

“Our firefighters deserve the very best, and we need to be sure that we have the best possible planning and resources in place for next time.”

The motion was initiated by Senator McKim, with Senator Lisa Singh joining as co-sponsor.

Full text of the motion:


That the Senate—

                          (a)      acknowledges the impact of recent fires on the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA);

                          (b)      notes that:

                                             -      over 22 000 hectares inside the TWWHA has already been burned, and that many fires are still burning inside the TWWHA,

                                             -      the Commonwealth Government is a signatory to the World Heritage Convention, which binds it to responsibly manage the TWWHA, and

                 -       scientists are predicting that it is likely that the TWWHA will experience hotter, drier conditions, and more dry lightning, in the future due to the impacts of global warming; and

                           (c)      calls on the Australian Government to work with the Tasmanian Government to establish and adequately resource an independent inquiry to examine the response to the current fires in the TWWHA, and the planning for, management of, and response to future fire events in the TWWHA, to seek submissions and hold public hearings, and to examine, report and make recommendations on relevant matters, including:

                                                (i)      the impact of global warming on fire frequency and magnitude,

                                               (ii)      the availability and provision of financial, human and mechanical resources,

                                             (iii)      the adequacy of fire assessment and modelling capacity, and

                                             (iv)      any other related matters deemed necessary by the inquiry.

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