THE senior Labor figure Carmen Lawrence said she deeply regretted the decision by the Environment Minister, Tony Burke, to rule out natural heritage listing for Tasmania's Tarkine wilderness.
Dr Lawrence, a former ALP federal president and chairwoman of the Australian Heritage Council, said Mr Burke showed a fundamental misunderstanding about an already weak heritage act.
''To read [it] as prohibiting development is simply wrong,'' Dr Lawrence said on Friday. ''I'm very disappointed, and I'm sure I speak for other members of the council.''
Disappointed ... Dr Carmen Lawrence says Tony Burke's decision showed a fundamental understanding of the heritage act. Photo: Marina Neil
Mr Burke overruled the council's recommendation to add to the National Heritage List about 447,000 hectares of rainforest, moorland and remote coastal hinterland in the island's north-west on natural heritage grounds.
Mr Burke said he weighed up a listing against the ''massive'' impact on jobs, and was unable to find a compromise.
''I simply haven't been able to find a way to recognise the natural heritage values with a boundary that will find a balance,'' he told local reporters.
''For this reason I have decided to only put the indigenous values on the National Heritage List.''
The Tarkine was under consideration for seven years by the council, longer than any other place. Its latest report described the region as ''a beautiful remote part of Tasmania which supports Australia's largest tract of cool temperate rainforest''.
The council chairman under the Howard government, Tom Harley, said he shared Dr Lawrence's distress. ''Certainly it is possible to have economic development alongside natural values,'' Mr Harley said. ''Look at Kakadu.''
Instead, only the Tarkine's two-kilometre coastline will be protected in recognition of an ancient Aboriginal presence in rock carvings and middens.
Mr Burke's decision follows a strong jobs protection campaign by the Australian Workers Union secretary, Paul Howes, including rallies against the listing in the local Labor seat of Braddon.
Mr Howes claimed victory over green groups, which he said angered the local community.
''Our members who have been living and working in the Tarkine for generations decided that enough was enough, and they took their argument all the way to Canberra,'' Mr Howes said
The Minerals Council of Tasmania said with two mining applications approved in the region and more development planned, Mr Burke's decision was sensible and pragmatic.
''I give him 10 out of 10,'' said the council's president, Wayne Bould.
The Greens leader, Christine Milne, said the decision was further proof that Labor was in the back pockets of the big miners.
''They have not only sold out the Great Barrier Reef to the mining industry, James Price Point to the gas industry, some of Australia's best farmland to coal seam gas, but now they have also given over the Tarkine.''
The decision was strongly backed by Labor and Liberal parties in Tasmania. The activist Tarkine National Coalition said it would continue to seek full and proper protection for the region.