The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) is one of the largest conservation areas in Australia, covering 15,800 km², or almost 25% of lutruwita/ Tasmania. It contains huge areas of wild landscape.
Sadly, fire is a huge threat to many vegetation communities in the TWWHA which are fire sensitive, particularly in the context of a changing climate.
We know that climate change fueled fire regimes threaten the TWWHA. For instance, the amount of vegetation burnt by fires caused by lightning strikes in Tasmania’s world heritage area has increased dramatically this century, according to research led by the University of Tasmania.
Following public consultation in 2020, plans for managing fire in the TWWHA are being developed. The Tasmanian National Parks Association (TNPA) says ‘we are pleased to see belated progress towards the development of a Fire Management Plan for the TWWHA’.
The Draft Fire Management Plan for the TWWHA was released in August 2021. Our reservations regarding this draft plan relates less to its contents than what was omitted. Much crucial information is contained in subsidiary plans and other documents (e.g. Reserve Value Fire Protection Plans) which are not published, or do not even exist yet, in the case of the Cultural [Aboriginal] Burning Policy.
A broader concern is the absence of strategic guidance on the optimal future fire regime for the TWWHA. The vegetation of the TWWHA is the outcome of millennia of Aboriginal fire management, followed by two centuries of extremely variable fire regimes and, in recent decades, the influence of climate change. The plan’s objectives include ‘Avoid loss of fire-sensitive vegetation’ and ‘Maintain natural values through appropriate fire regimes’ and to apply ‘cultural burning’. But the plan fails to acknowledge that there is no consensus on how these potentially conflicting objectives are to be achieved.
We appreciates there are good reasons for many of the omissions but the Fire Management Plan needs to include greater acknowledgement of this and provide more detail of how these issues are to be resolved, particularly a commitment to public consultation in the development of key plans/policies and publishing final outcome.