"I think it's important to recognise there are degraded areas which should never have been included": Greg Hunt. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Environment Minister Greg Hunt has confirmed the Abbott government will seek to wind back the World Heritage listing of Tasmania's forests, less than a year after it was approved.
Mr Hunt said the government would meet a World Heritage Committee deadline to propose a boundary change to the 170,000 hectare extension agreed by the committee in June.
He refused to rule out seeking the removal of protection from the disputed old growth forest valleys just added to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage area.
Instead Mr Hunt said the adjustment would maintain protection for existing national parks, but seek to exclude degraded areas that should never have been part of the wilderness.
The tall eucalypt forests that formed the heart of the 2012 extension were fought over for a generation, sometimes with assaults on protesters and firebombing of loggers' equipment.
When settled by the committee at its Phnom Penh meeting, it was described by then environment minister Tony Burke as Australia's most contentious heritage boundary. ''These are extraordinarily precious areas of forest,'' he said.
But the Liberal Party campaigned in Tasmania at the election on winding back the extension, because of a lack of consultation.
''We were critical of the process for adding that, and we were critical of the content of much of it,'' Mr Hunt said in Hobart on Thursday.
Asked whether the government would meet the February 1 deadline for changes to be put before the next committee meeting, Mr Hunt said: ''Correct.''
He declined to release details of the proposed changes before they were submitted, or to specify the fate of areas such as the disputed Styx and Florentine valleys.
''I think it's important to recognise there are degraded areas which should never have been included,'' Mr Hunt said. ''It's quite bizarre that you have heavily logged and destroyed areas which simply weren't up to standard included.''
Greens leader Christine Milne said tiny areas of the extension had been logged.
Like other previously logged World Heritage forests, such as the California Redwoods, she said they had been included to keep the integrity of the wilderness and allow restoration of degraded areas.
''This appalling move by Greg Hunt will continue a well-established pattern of Australia demeaning itself in a global context under the Abbott government,'' Senator Milne said.