FORMER senior Labor figure Carmen Lawrence said she deeply regretted Environment Minister Tony Burke's decision to rule out natural heritage listing for Tasmania's Tarkine wilderness.
Dr Lawrence, a former ALP federal president and chairman 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.''
Dr Carmen Lawrence. Photo: Marina Neil
Mr Burke overruled the AHC'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 AHC, 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 former AHC 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.
Existing uses there, which include beach four-wheel-driving, will be unaffected, Mr Burke said. His decision follows a strong jobs protection campaign by the powerful 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, who 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 Tasmania Minerals Council said that 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,'' minerals council president Wayne Bould said.
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.