As the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) site occupies such a large part of Tasmania, it’s time to take a closer look at the history of this stunning natural area, in which we offer our customisable tours.
World Heritage Sites are designated by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and are judged for their significance of cultural, scientific or historic values. There are 10 selection criteria, six cultural and four natural. Nominated sites must be of ‘outstanding universal value’ and satisfy at least one of the ten criteria.
Tasmania can proudly say that it meets seven of the ten criteria, making the site with the highest number of criteria in the world. It shares this top place with Mount Tai in China, although for a different combination of criteria.
Although it comprises a wide variety of landscapes and topography, it is primarily known for being one of the last temperate wilderness expanses. It covers large areas of the west and southwest of the state. Much of it is very rugged and it contains the only extensive area of recently glaciated landscapes, the most recent period ended about 10- to 12- thousand years ago. It also includes a lot of wet and temperate environments from eucalyptus forests and button grass plains; even though the highest peak is a little over 1,600 metres above sea level, the semi-alpine areas are of particular natural value.
The history of the initial nomination is tied to the Franklin Hydro Electric Dam proposal, which was a source of much protest and conflicting visions for the remote Franklin and Gordon rivers. It was eventually placed on the World Heritage List in 1982 following an agreement between the Federal Government and the Tasmanian Government. This included 50 million dollars in funding from Bob Hawke’s (at the time) Federal Government (Labor).
The amount of land covered by the listing was expanded in both 1989 and 2013 and now covers about 25% of the state, some 15,800 square kilometres.
There are ten parks and reserves that make up the boundaries to the TWWHA, including the four largest National Parks in Tasmania, namely:
- Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair NP
- Walls of Jerusalem NP
- Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers NP
- Southwest NP
The controversy over the management and definition of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area boundaries have played out in the political spectrum. Conflict over both recreational and economic use have been politicised often during the 1980s and 1990s and lead to a divided and sometimes antagonistic attitude towards the various elements of the community.
Soon after the last amendment in 2013, the Federal Government (Liberal) lead by Tony Abbot, proposed de-listing the area to allow logging of tall eucalyptus forest. Meeting in Qatar in June 2014, the thirty eighth session of the World Heritage Committee rejected the proposal. Had it been successful, this would have marked the first de-listing for economic purposes by any developed nation in the world. In 2016, the Tasmanian Government formally withdrew the bid to allow the logging within the TWWHA.
There is a high degree of plant diversity in the area covering six different ecosystems from wetlands to treeless alpine communities. Ironically, the Darwin crater – a suspected meteorite impact crater in Western Tasmania about 26 km south of Queenstown, just within the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park – provides scientists with the longest continuous pollen records in Australia. The list of fauna extends to almost 14,000 species…much of it unique to the area.
Today, tourism is the main economic driver for the region and Tasmania is promoted as a clean, green natural wilderness destination. However, the conflicts continue over the levels of development for tourist facilities and preserving the elements that make it so unique.
We humbly suggest that you come and experience it for yourself. Why not book a customised tour with us today?
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